Zimbabwean authorities have failed to
respect and implement progressive provisions in the country’s new
governance charter that protect and promote human rights, a leading
lawyers group has said.
In an assessment of the country’s rights record the Zimbabwe Lawyers
for Human Rights (ZLHR) said state and non-state actors had been at
fault in terms of upholding progressive provisions contained in the
country’s ew constitution.
“More than a year has now passed since the enactment of Zimbabwe’s new
Constitution. Despite the progressive protections it contains in
relation to increasing the transparency of state institutions and
protecting a wide range of rights and freedoms, deficits remain in
relation to its respect by many of Zimbabwe’s state authorities,” ZLHR
said in a statement.
Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution which in May last year after
citizens overwhelmingly voted for it in a referendum in which
President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party and Morgan Tsvangirai’s
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) endorsed during the lifespan of
the coalition government where the ZANU PF leader and the former trade
ZLHR applauded the government for conducting interviews for the
selection of judges and the judicious judgment delivered by the
judicial officers during the year.
“In 2014, on the positive side, we witnessed increased transparency in
the appointment process for judicial officers in Zimbabwe. Public
interviews were held for nominees to the Supreme Court and High Court,
and we look forward to quality candidates being selected by the
Judicial Service Commission. Some progressive judgments were delivered
in matters relating to constitutional issues ranging from criminal
defamation, insult laws, through to protecting and enforcing the right
to access water and education,” reads part of the ZLHR statement.
However, the leading legal defence group expressed concern over the
conduct of some state authorities who continue to target human rights
lawyers and human rights defenders.
“Challenges remained in enforcing progressive decisions contained in
the constitution, and in the commitment to end certain excesses by
both State and non-State actors. Human rights lawyers carrying out
their professional duties continued to be targeted, and associated
with the cause of their clients, in contravention of principles
protecting the legal profession, such as the United Nations Basic
Principles on the Role of Lawyers,” said ZLHR.
ZLHR also honoured three lawyers from Masvingo who scooped the 2014
human rights lawyer of the year award for continuing to act and speak
out in support of individuals and communities whose social, economic,
civil and political rights were violated.
ZLHR named Phillip Shumba, Collen Maboke and Martin Mureri of Masvingo
for their representation of the Chingwizi villagers who were
persecuted and prosecuted for allegedly committing public violence. 26
out of 30 Chingwizi villagers were recently acquitted on charges of
committing public violence.
Besides Shumba, Maboke and Mureri, ZLHR also acknowledged the efforts
of other human rights lawyers including Tanaka Muganyi, Tonderai
Bhatasara, Blessing Gorejena and Reginald Chidawanyika who exposed and
fought bad practices regardless of the consequences to themselves.
Gabriela Knaul, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
Independence of Judges and Lawyers delivered the annual human rights
lecture where she underscored the need for judicial independence and
respect for the legal profession.