WHILE the Zimbabwean delegation a fortnight ago told the 75th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) that Zimbabwe is upholding economic and human rights, this is contrary to what has been obtaining in the country, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has said.
The ACHPR, inaugurated in 1987 in Ethiopia, looks into the protection of human and peoples’ rights across the continent.
Zimbabwe’s deteriorating human rights situation and unsustainable debt have seen it fail to get lines of credit from international financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Human rights have been cited as an important anchor in servicing national debt.
New details have shown that the Zimbabwean delegation which attended the ACHPR conference tried to paint a rosy picture of the country’s economic and human rights situation, in response to a submission by ZLHR.
ZLHR’s scathing submission was made against a backdrop of escalating food prices, and the downward spiral of the Zimbabwe dollar.
“ZLHR is concerned that the Government of Zimbabwe is still failing to control the economic abyss. Zimbabwe’s parallel foreign currency market, and the use of different exchange rates and arbitrage have exacerbated the economic decline and resulted in extreme poverty and food insecurity,” said ZLHR in its submission seen by The NewsHawks.
“Prices of basic commodities have not stabilised, and the majority of citizens are living below the poverty datum line. The country is losing revenue due to corrupt activities and money laundering.
“There are allegations of illicit gold exports by top government officials reported in an Al Jazeera documentary.
As a result of economic hardships, Zimbabwean citizens continue to flee the country to neighbouring countries as undocumented economic refugees and overseas, mostly to the United Kingdom and Canada.”
In response, the delegation said the situation has been exaggerated.
“Lawyers for human rights presented yesterday in terms of various allegations that were made against government. The first topic, I will refer to allegations against handling of the economy. This is a basic human right, and we are expected to handle the economy in a manner that is beneficial to all citizens in the country,” said Tabani Mpofu, head of Zimbabwe’s Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu), also part of the delegation.
Sacu, is housed in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
“But on this score, I’m happy to quote the performance of my country under the tutelage of government. I am referring to the World Bank. In their recent statement, they said Zimbabwe has laid strong foundations for accelerated future economic growth and improvement of living standards of its people. This is a comment made after a professional analysis of Zimbabwe’s government.
“This demonstrates how government through the National Development Strategy (NDS) 1 is working towards key economic issues in order to attain an upper middle income by 2030. IMF reported that Zimbabwe performed strongly in 2022, growing by a huge 6.1% due to increased agricultural productivity, high commodity prices and improved capital utilisation in the manufacturing sector. Increased agricultural production has led to high yields of wheat, which last year attained a record that has been standing for over 50 years,” said the delegation in a statement.
The delegation’s response has also been divorced from reality because the figures were revised downwards. For instance, while it said the IMF forecast Zimbabwe’s GDP growth rate at 6.1% in 2022, the financial institution has projected Zimbabwe’s real GDP growth rate to decline to about 3.5%, owing to internal and external shocks, electricity shortages and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, the African Development Bank (AfDB) further downgraded Zimbabwe’s growth to 3.2%, between 2023 and 2024, owing to external shocks, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a slump in South Africa’s economy.
This week, economist Steve Hanke measured Zimbabwe’s inflation at 791% per year, the highest in the world.
The ZLHR says the government delegation has been misleading people on the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill which has continually shrunk the civic space.
Findings by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) show a drastic fall in civil liberties during the political tenure of Mnangagwa, compared to that of the late Mugabe, which they say is likely to increase if the PVO Bill is signed into law.
The organisation made an analysis of the civic space between 2014-2021 by contrasting Mugabe’s final four years in power ahead of the 2018 elections, and Mnangagwa’s initial four years into power ahead of the 2023 elections.
The findings showed a 2% increase in the civic space and state freedom during Mnangagwa’s first year in power, compared to Mugabe in 2014 after the 2013 general election.
However, 2019 saw state freedom fall by 13% to 31% compared to 44% in 2014 recorded under Mugabe, showing shrinking of the civic space.
The ZLHR recommended that the ACHPR urge the government to desist from enacting the draconian PVO Amendment Bill.
In response, the government delegation said the PVO Bill acts in the public’s interest, contrary to what civil society organisations have been calling for.
“I want to turn your excellencies to the PVO Bill which is raised in every forum that I have attended. There is an observation that we made. This current Bill, instead of being subject to objective analysis, it has become victim of understanding and regrettably misinformation,” Mpofu said.
“The impression that has been given is that it has been roughly done. I would like to indicate to you that there has been thorough and wide consultation on the Bill. On the 17th of March, the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) invited to State House CSOs, where there were deliberations in an atmosphere of cordiality.
“This is not an isolated situation. Consultations with civil society organisations have been occurring constantly and regularly since 2019.
“Under the current regulatory landscape with the current Act (PVO), the minister has unilateral powers to suspend a CSO. In the current regime being proposed, judicial oversight has been introduced, so in the proposed Bill, the minister has to approach the High Court (before suspending).”
Mpofu also said the government has done a stellar job in rolling out environmental justice.
“We were also referred to the issue of re-settlements in which we were told government has been improperly resettling people. This is untrue. In all situations, when relocations are done, the disadvantaged are given fair compensation,” he said.
However, CSOs have been condemning government over its failure to provide adequate relocation packages for people displaced by environmental activity.
For instance, government has been at loggerheads with displaced families over relocations and meagre or no compensation.