The Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Hon. Musabayana has revealed that he is not aware of the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons which was was adopted by the African Union on 31 August 2016.
The Minister said this during a Senate sitting whilst responding to a question by Honourable Senator Zivira on 12 March 2020. Hon. Sen. Zivira asked “My question is directed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. When is Zimbabwe signing the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Older Persons otherwise known as the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons which was adopted by AU on 31st January 2016? Thank you.”
In response the Deputy Minister said “I want to thank the Hon. Member for the question. Unfortunately, I think it is a bit of a specific question. I am not sure about that particular treaty but I will check with our records and see where it is and then come and update the House.”
The Senate President then asked that “Maybe I encourage the Hon. Senator that since it is a particular question, can you please put it in writing.”
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) would like to applaud the Hon. Senator Zivira for asking the question as the signing of the Protocol will enhance rights of elderly people in Zimbabwe. MIHR has also been engaging MPs and Senators to push the government to ratify the protocol.
Youths from Bulawayo have over the past weekend been involved in promoting the rights of elderly people in the city by donating groceries, toiletries and other necessary items to two old people’s homes in the City.
The youths (about 40 of them) being organized and mobilized by Kaizen Champions Foundation and Friends of Elitah went to Bulawayo Shelter on Friday 28 February 2020 and to Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Home on Sunday 01 March 2020.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) applauds the youths and the two CBOs for prioritising the rights of the elderly at a time when the country is facing acute economic challenges that are making the old people’s homes fail to run smoothly.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is running a #GugawithRights (#AgewithRights) Campaign that seeks to enhance the promotion and defense of the rights of elderly people in Zimbabwe. The organization is also running a #YouthStandUp4HumanRights campaign which encourages young people to defend and promote human rights in their communities.
To express their displeasure and unhappiness at the way Bulawayo City Council has been failing to attend to pertinent residents’ concerns, about 150 Bulawayo ward 9 residents on Sartuday 29 February 2020 forced a premature abortion of a residents and council officials meeting meant to discuss the new council credit policy.
Firstly, the residents refused to sign the register of attendance accusing council of wanting to use the register to fabricate and say they agreed to the policy. The residents said during the budget consultation they rejected the budget but council went ahead to pass it disregarding their input.
Having withdrawn their consent to sign the register, the residents also complained why council sent only 1 employee to present such an important documenting arguing that there was Noone to be minuting residents’ concerns.
Thirdly the residents disputed why the credit policy was said to be approved by council without their (residents) prior consultation.
The residents said they don’t feel the council still has legitimate cause to adress them and thus they need the Minister of Local Government instead.
Eventually the residents told the Council official to leave and the meeting ended without the credit policy presentation.
This is an example of the power that ordinary citizens have should they decide to nonviolently act in unity towards a common cause.
A British Council Next Generation 2019 Study released in January 2020 has revealed that most youths in south – western Zimbabwe have strong ties to their local communities than to the nation as a whole.
According to the study that was conducted in all provinces of Zimbabwe, young people were asked about their feelings of belonging in their communities. “The study found that in issues of belonging there were conflicting views between and within individuals. There are some youths who had a sense of belonging to their communities but did not feel the same about the country. This was mainly in the south-western parts of the country, where young people strongly perceived the lack of development in their communities as systematic marginalisation driven by regionalism. The strong attachment to their communities was also linked with their cultural identity” the study reveals.
The study further reveals that Bulawayo has the highest percentage of youths who feel they belong to the province at 97%, followed by Matabeleland North at 76.9%, then Masvingo at 76.6%, then Mashonaland East at 76.1%. Overally national belonging is at 64.2% among the youths.
The study further noted some youths sentiments which include:
‘Do not ask me about Zimbabwe. I don’t know Zimbabwe but I know Lupane. Lupane is my home and I would not want to trade it for any other place.’ FGD participant, Lupane, Matabeleland North province, 2019
‘For some of us, it is as if we do not live in Zimbabwe because we don’t see any benefits from the government. When it comes to jobs and opportunities it is always the youth in Mashonaland that benefit. We are surviving on things we get in our community and this community has supported us very well […] but not Zimbabwe.’ FGD participant, Binga, Matabeleland North province, 2019
‘For me, it would be difficult to live anywhere else in this country. I cannot see myself leaving Gwanda for any other place in Zimbabwe.’ FGD participant, Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, 2019
It is sad that the government of Zimbabwe that is desperately clinging to centralized power and refusing to devolve, does not realize that too much centralization of power has alienated youths from nationhood.
A week ago, Binga District in Matabeleland North (Zimbabwe) was one of the Districts heavily affected by drought and there were calls for food aid relief. Just a week later, the calls for relief aid are even worser – not because of the worsening drought but because of flooding. This calls for a serious human rights based approach to settlement, planning and education of our communities.
As MIHR we feel the Binga lesson should be a call for all of us to:
Consider strengthening the Civil Protection Unit of government as a human rights disaster protection mechanism;
Close civil and political rank to focus on protecting the rights of our people;
Remodel rural settlement planning to ensure people are protected from flooding;
Invest in road and bridges infrastructure to ensure roads are travelable during such times so that aid and assistance can easily reach the communities;
Invest in cellphone network penetration in rural areas.
We join the call by other civil society players for citizens and international community to assist the people of Binga.
A Harare company (Mr Brands) which we wrote to in early January and demanded that it corrects the linguistic mistake in one of its brands, has admitted to making a genuine mistake and committed to rectifying the problem.
The company through one Wayne wrote to us on the 24th of January 2020 and claimed that “we were caught off guard being a Christian company as we make food, are not involved in politics and next thing we know we are violating human rights.” The company further elaborated that “as promised we have spent time going through errors, I see not just spelling, but also grammar issues which refer to Shona , I think it was mentioned to me that it said Cook like shona. I can see how this may have offended you. That was not intentional, I am English and make mistake in my very own language.”
The company further sent to MIHR a translation of the Ndebele statement it had drafted and asked the Institute to assist in validating it, which the Institute did.
MIHR would want to acknowledge Mr Brands for the commitment so far to respecting the linguistic rights of the IsiNdebele language speakers and committing to make amends of the wrong that was made.
The Institute further clarifies its position that it has already made to the company, to all companies in Zimbabwe and to all Zimbabwean citizens that human rights are not politics and are not a political matter but a matter of human identity and development.
As a human rights watchdog we shall be monitoring the next batch of the products in the shops and should we find them aptly corrected we shall make it publicly known.
About 114 youths from Bulawayo’s peri-urban St Peters Village today converged at the sports ground for a youth empowerment programme where they received sports and sustainable lifestyles information and skills.
The session which lasted for half a day was organized by Community Influencer Khumbulani Maphosa and attracted renowned sports personalities in the city.
Our 2020 focus is to partner with individual young human rights activists and community influencers to reach out to youths as empower them with knowledge and skills of defending and promoting their rights and freedoms as part of the #YouthStandUp Initiative which lines with the UN human rights theme “Youth Stand Up for Human Rights”. Mainly we are targeting youths from vulnerable situations and communities.
About 100 students from Njube High School in Bulawayo took to the streets in midmorning today (Monday 20 January 2020) demonstrating against sharp fees hike and demanding that they be given their right to education.
The students who were singing the Ndebele protest song “into oyenzayo siyayizonda” (we dont like what you are doing) moved from the school premises and joined Masiyephambili road and Luveve road at Emagetsini and turned back close to Entumbane complex. They were carrying the Zimbabwe flag, the President’s portrait and placards.
According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, “every person has the right to freedom of assembly and association” (section 58). Furthermore, Section 59 accords “every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, but these rights must be exercised peacefully”
MIHR observed the demonstration and noted that the students exercised their right peacefully without damaging public or private property and without injuring passerbys.
The Herald newspaper reports that the government of Zimbabwe has set in place a plan to unroll community radio stations with an initial pilot of 10 community radios. According to The Herald the first station will be in Shamva targeting the minority Chewa language speakers and is one of the 16 official languages of the country. The report did not specify where else in the other 9 areas will the community radios be.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe recognised 16 official languages and 10 of them are minority languages spoken in Matabeleland region. Matabeleland civic society and communities have over the last decade or two been at the forefront of advocating for the licensing of community radios.
The Zimbabwe government has once again proved that it is not in its DNA to protect and defend the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities by joining 9 other countries to vote against a UN resolution on the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
In December 2019, the UN General Assembly voted on Draft Resolution A/C.3/74/L.29 “Situation of Human Rights of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” which was sponsored by Finland (on behalf of the European Union (EU)) and the United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)).
The resolution raised alarm at the continuing gross human rights violations of Rohingya Muslims who are also being displaced to neighbouring countries. Over 1.1 million Rohingya muslims have been displaced since August 2017 fleeing ethnic cleansing that involves killings, mass rapes and burning of home. An independent international fact finding mission has reported “of gross human rights violations and abuses suffered by Rohingya Muslims and other minorities” by security forces, which the mission said “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.” The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned in October 2018 that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.” The mission also said in its final report in September 2019 that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.
The resolution was eventually passed with overwhelming vote of 134 countries in favour against 9 in opposition and 28 abstentions. Zimbabwe was the only African country that voted against the resolution. Other countries who voted against were Belarus, Cambodia, China, Lao, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia and Vietnam.
A number of African countries also abstained from the vote, including: Cameroon, Burundi, Eritrea, Kenya, Namibia, Lesotho and Zambia.
Zimbabwe has not been doing well in the past years in terms of general respect for citizens’ human rights, use of the military to violate rights of citizens and upholding rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities. For instance, a Minority Rights Group International People Under Threat 2019 Report, Zimbabwe ranked 24th in the index index and fell one place from 2018’s ranking.
On the 3rd of September 2019 The Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Energy Mutodi released a video on social media where he labelled minority Ndebele people who occupy the western side of Zimbabwe as migrants and refugees in the country.
Myanmar, where most citizens are Buddhist, has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering the group stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
This action by Zimbabwe government, which is still having an unresolved Gukurahundi genocide (1983 – 1986) against the Ndebele people, is an indication that ethnic and linguistic minorities are not safe in Zimbabwe and the government is not committed to respecting their fundamental rights and freedoms.