By Professor Matodzi
HARARE, November 26, 2015 – The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has sealed a landmark pact with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to formalise co-operation between the leading legal defence group and the human rights watchdog.
ZLHR signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ZHRC on Wednesday in a significant step aimed at formalising an agreement to work towards co-operation in nurturing the protection, promotion and enforcement of human rights in Zimbabwe.
In a statement released Thursday, ZLHR said the two organisations cemented cooperation through the signing of an MoU at a ceremony held in the capital, where ZHRC Chairperson Commissioner Elasto Hilarious Mugwadi and ZLHR Executive Director Irene Petras appended their signatures to the landmark agreement on behalf of the two institutions.
The signing ceremony was attended and witnessed by ZHRC Deputy Chairperson Ellen Sithole, Commissioners Joseph Kurebwa, Kwanele Muriel Jirira, Professor Carroll Themba Khombe, Sheila Hilary Matindike, Acting Executive Secretary Erick Mukutiri and Kurai Makumbe, the Chief Human Rights Officer – Complaints Handling and Investigations and ZLHR Programmes Manager Dzimbabwe Chimbga and Communications Officer Kumbirai Mafunda.
ZLHR said the MoU paves the way for the human rights lawyers group to establish a mutual relationship with ZHRC in order to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights and exploit and develop synergies and complementarities between the two institutions.
“The two institutions committed to working together by referring, receiving, and dealing with cases and sharing knowledge and expertise on human rights, and cooperating on identified thematic issues in order to achieve the goal of promoting, protecting and enforcing human rights,” ZLHR said in a statement accessed by Radio VOP.
Mugwadi and Petras lauded the MoU, the first of its kind that the ZHRC has entered into with any human rights organisation in Zimbabwe as a milestone in fostering a culture of human rights in Zimbabwe.
Established in 2009, as part of a raft of democratic reforms agreed on by parties in the now disbanded power-sharing government of President Robert Mugabe and former Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the ZHRC is one of the independent commissions whose main function is to promote awareness of and respect for human rights and freedoms at all levels of society.
The human rights watchdog is also tasked with promoting the protection, development and attainment of human rights and freedoms and will monitor, assess and ensure observance of human rights and freedoms, to receive and consider complaints from the public and to take such action in regard to the complaints, as it considers appropriate.
Other functions of the ZHRC are to protect the public against abuse of power and maladministration by state and public institutions and by officers of those institutions. The ZHRC is also expected to submit reports to Parliament on matters relating to human rights and citizens’ freedoms.