United Nations Officers Chased Out Of Pillay Briefing

The UN officials were listening to Chinamasa who was responding to the UN human rights chief’s statement.

Pillay who was in the country for five days, to assess the human rights situation, said she was worried about the army’s involvement in politics.

“I have heard much concern expressed about the role of the military, including a recent statement by one of the country’s most senior army officers suggesting the army should throw its weight behind one political party…for any country to be called a democracy; its army must observe strict political neutrality as the GPA (Global Political Agreement) clearly says.”
The GPA which was signed by Zanu (PF) and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation leaders, saw the establishment of the new unity government in 2009.
“State organs and institutions do not belong to any political party and should be impartial in the discharge of their duties,” she said.

Pillay’s comments follow the statements attributed to Major-General Martin Chedondo, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Chief of Staff, who recently issued brazen remarks that the army must interfere in politics and support President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) party and labelled other political parties as agents of imperialism.

She also told journalists that government should issue more broadcasting licences to independent players after expressing concern about the perceived strong political bias of the State-run broadcast media in the country.

“Opening up the market to non-state TV and radio stations might help to stimulate more balanced and better quality news by providing competition. While the newspapers have benefitted from greater freedom, they both reflect and feed the extreme political polarisation,” said Pillay.

Vox Media Productions Private Limited’s has petitioned Zimbabwean courts challenging its denial of a licence by the country’s broadcasting authorities and their decision to licence its competitors ahead of it.

On the civil society she said: “A vibrant civil society is a crucial part of any democratic society’s development, in all spheres including human rights, and it should be strongly supported even if some of its messages make uncomfortable reading for those in authority.”

“I am also disturbed by reports that some of the humanitarian agencies are not allowed to operate in certain parts of the country – notably Masvingo and Mashonaland – which means that aid, including food aid, is not in all cases being delivered on the basis of need,” Pillay said.

She also called on western governments to suspend sanctions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and his allies and spoke against the criminalisation of gays and lesbians.

Pillay, who was expected to leave Zimbabwe Friday afternoon, arrived in the country last Sunday and held meetings with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, ministers and leaders of civil society organisations.