David Mangota, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs took the lead role of hijacking preparations for the meeting between the CSO’s and the UN human rights chief by identifying, writing and inviting civil society organisations to the Tuesday meeting.
Mangota selected the CSO’s to attend the briefing with Pillay from a list of CSO’s who attended the launch of the national report of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism last year.
Mangota invited 44 CSO’s and allowed the National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) to invite 55 organisations, of which 25 CSO’s were already on his ministry’s list making a total of 99 organisations.
He also dictated that the meeting with Pillay would be held at the Senate Chamber at Parliament Building, which has adequate space for your comfortable interaction.”
However, the CSO’s on Monday resolved not to let Mangota dictate and organise for them and said they will boycott the meeting at Parliament and will wait for Pillay to meet them at a venue and location of their own choice.
Last year, several human rights activists and legislators were harassed and assaulted at Parliament by some Zanu (PF) supporters during a public hearing meeting organised to solicit people’s input into the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill. Up to now no arrests have been made.
Meanwhile Justice and Legal Parliamentary Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Monday said he told Pillay that Zimbabwe criminalises homosexuals.
He also denied human rights abuses in form of torture and beatings on rights activists.
In a statement, Chinamasa said his meeting with Pillay Monday morning, was very cordial.
Last week the Gays And Lesbian of Zimbabwe (GALZ) hoisted their flag at their offices in Harare.
“They (GALZ) maybe want to highlight their situation to her and it’s a matter that we discussed and we made it clear that in our law homosexual activities are criminalised and that any persons who commit homosexual activities will be arrested,” Chinamasa said after his meeting with Pillay.
“If those people apart from raising their flags had committed homosexual activities as they were raising their flag we would have arrested them without regard whether the High Commissioner is visiting us or not because it will be a criminal offence.”
Although the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was formed after violent polls, which killed dozens of rights and opposition activists, Chinamasa denied such human rights abuses were ever committed when he met Pillay at his office.
“We want proper details of those who say they have been tortured or beaten so that we can send the police to investigate whether that person was involved in an accident or torture. Now that one shows wounds of those people hurt in an accident then you say its torture, we won’t accept that. This happens because all is written in the media it doesn’t have the details of who was tortured, we just see it in the newspapers,” Chinamasa said.
“We need to know where these things are said to have happened so that police can verify if it is the truth. We don’t condemn torture, if it is happening we don’t like it at all.”
Pillay is set to meet Mugabe, Tsvangirai and other critical stakeholders in the next days before she completes her five day working visit on Friday which will be completed by her hosting a press conference.
“We advised her on the achievements that we have been able to note as well as the challenges. Amongst the challenges are the issue to deal with sanctions, the decline in our socio-economic conditions of our people, the lack of funding for education, the lack of funding for health, the imposition of sanctions affecting access to credit internationally, our failure to benefit from our membership of the IMF and the World Bank,” Chinamasa said.
“We dealt with so many issues. On her part she raised concerns that we all heard about, her concerns she will elaborate at her press conference on Friday. But she is happy that we have functioning institutions in Zimbabwe. She is also happy that we are a democracy, she is happy with the co-operation that we are giving to her office which has been demonstrated by our invitation to her to visit the country.”