…freedoms have disappeared in Zimbabwe
IN the midst of a political and economic crisis that has hit Zimbabwe hard ahead of the 2023 elections, stakeholder dialogue to stop the bleeding should be considered to avoid a bloodbath and deterioration of the country’s fortunes, ZimRights national director Dzikamai Bere (pictured) has said.
Zimbabwe heads to next year’s polls amid fears that without reforms, the dangers of violence and manipulation are heightened, and this could lead to yet another disputed election.
Bere told The NewsHawks in an interview this week that the economic and political situation continues to deteriorate, affecting millions of Zimbabweans.
“The human rights situation in Zimbabwe keeps deteriorating at all levels, eroding the dignity of families, communities and individuals,” Bere said.
“First there is need to acknowledge that we are in a man-made crisis – it is called truth telling. We are in a crisis. Many times, we only take dramatic action when blood is flowing in the streets, but right now a lot of blood is flowing in the hospitals, and in the streets.”
“We need – just like a nation at war – to stop everything and initiate a broad-based multi-stakeholder dialogue process aimed at first stopping the bleeding and finding each other, realising that elections are not the answer. In fact, in Zimbabwe, they are part of the problem. They deliver nothing but dead bodies and increasing authoritarian consolidation.”
Bere said instead of addressing the challenges haunting Zimbabwe, the country’s “clueless and heartless” leaders were fighting workers, imprisoning activists and trade unionists without trial while shutting down non-governmental organisations.
He also accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration of ignoring the international community’s wise counsel.
Several labour rights activists have been arrested in the recent past, including the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) leadership over various charges observers say were trumped up and meant to silence critics of the regime.
Bere said several freedoms have been eroded in Zimbabwe, a cause for concern for many who now feel the heavy-handedness of the state, especially in dealing with critics and the opposition.
“The right to free expression, association and the right to protest have all disappeared. You can almost get convinced that they are determined to fail at any cost. The situation is just terrible and there is no end in sight. Elections will just make it worse as violent repression will increase.”
He said the government must stop the persecution of activists and NGOs.
“(There is need to) initiate an inclusive and comprehensive reform process that touches both the political reforms necessary for a return to constitutionalism (notice that I am not saying political reforms necessary for a free and fair election – because constitutionalism – not merely elections – should be our obsession) and a return to a life-sustaining economy that saves all of us.”
“These are difficult steps that cannot happen without acknowledgement from the current leadership and necessary support from the good people in Zimbabwe and the international community.”
He said what was standing in the way of reform and progress in Zimbabwe is lack of ethical leadership that cares about the people.
“For that reason, we are most likely going to remain on the road to perdition until the contradictions have reached their limits and the nation will pay a price that is not unavoidable,” Bere said.
On worries that Zimbabwe is headed for a bloodbath ahead of the 2023 elections, Bere said: “That is an understatement – we are heading towards a bloodbath. But if anyone thinks only human rights defenders are under siege they are deluded.”
“Everyone is under siege. The pattern is emerging. They started with the attack on the opposition – the recalls – aimed at capturing the opposition. They moved to the judiciary with the Amendment Bill Number 2 and the infamous (Chief Justice Luke) Malaba debacle. They are coming after the Law Society.”
“With the Health Services Bill, they are coming after the doctors. With the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill – they are coming after the NGOs. There will be the Patriotic Act and many others. We are heading into the dark ages – not the human rights defenders – all of us and we must wake up and smell the blood – it’s not coffee time.”
He said both Zanu PF and opposition parties should acknowledge the power of the people in dealing with the crisis in Zimbabwe, adding that ordinary citizens were now frustrated by political shenanigans.
“While the leadership may take time to understand the path towards returning power to the people, ordinary Zimbabweans are frustrated with the shenanigans and are ready for broad-based dialogue – led by grassroots communities and giving a voice to their struggles.”