Harare, January 26, 2016 – PRO-DEMOCRACY campaigners have accused the country’s rulers of continued clamp down on civil liberties in defiance of national laws which guarantee freedoms, coupled with the continuous opening up democratic space through judicial pronouncements.
Zimbabweans in 2013 penned their new Constitution which has often been described as one of the best on the continent because of its expanded bill of rights.
Regrettably, observers say, citizens have failed to enjoy the rights due to an overbearing executive which continues to overrun those civil liberties.
The country’s judiciary has in the recent past been giving successive pronouncements which have been hailed as watershed moments for an oppressed country.
Mabvuku-Tafara legislator and avid campaigner for good governance, James Maridadi says civil liberties will remain a pie in the sky for as long as there was no political will from the country’s rulers.
“People can celebrate a good Constitution, people can celebrate landmark rulings but what brings democracy is political will,” said the MDC-T lawmaker in an interview with RadioVOP.
“Zimbabwe’s politics is contaminated; so democracy is invariably contaminated.”
Despite freedom of expression and assembly being enshrined in the country’s Constitution and a clear system which separates powers among arms of the state, observers are dismayed executive directives continue to override judiciary pronouncements to the detriment of the country.
A case in point when the High Court outlawed police spot fines but the law enforcement agents still continue to collect the fines.
Police have also been quick to ban lawful opposition gatherings and demonstrations organised by citizens with suspicions the 2015 abduction of pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara was instigated by the State.
Maridadi says the recent court rulings also touching on general liberties among the citizens are not in vain as they have a huge bearing on how future generations would lead their lives.
ZimRights director Okay Machisa also says democracy in Zimbabwe remained a “rainbow” until there was political will to change issues of citizen participation in political matters.
“We have progress from the judiciary line but the executive and parliamentary line still lag behind,” he said.
“We can only celebrate the rulings only to the extent of us satisfying ourselves that the executive may after all not be interfering with the judiaciary.”
However, University of Zimbabwe political science professor Charity Manyeruke sees things differently.
Manyeruke says the country still has laws to be followed and freedoms must be enjoyed within a context of those laws.
“People are still able to demonstrate; we are been hearing of one man demonstrations taking place…but within the context of that democratic situation, people must know there are laws that need to be followed otherwise there would be anarchy.
“So it is not democracy in a vacuum, democracy must exist within permitted spaces.”