ZLHR urges govt to adopt basic democratic principles in combating spread of coronavirus

On International Day of Democracy, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
(ZLHR) urges government to adopt and implement measures that are
legal, proportionate and respect basic principles of democracy in its
battle to combat the spread of coronavirus.

The significance of International Day of Democracy is to provide an
opportunity for people to participate in democracy as a way to promote
and protect democratic principles.

Commemorated annually on 15 September, International Day of Democracy,which is being commemorated under the theme “COVID-19: A Spotlight on Democracy,” is celebrated to highlight the values of freedom and respect for human rights as essential pre-conditions for democracy.

This year’s theme is critical in that it puts a spotlight on democracy
at a time when the world is battling to contain the spread of
coronavirus. This puts critical focus on how governments across the
world are adhering to the essential elements of democracy which
include freedom, respect for human rights, and the principle of
holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage.

Across the world, democracy is facing challenges amid the coronavirus
pandemic. While the world is confronted with combating the coronavirus
pandemic, upholding principles of democracy should never be abdicated
as it is crucial in ensuring the free flow of information and access
to information, participation in decision-making, accountability and
respect for fundamental freedoms.

Whereas democracy provides the natural environment for the protection
and effective realisation of human rights and is a fundamental
building block for peace and sustainable development, in Zimbabwe, it
is perturbing that government has been at the forefront of leading the
onslaught of eroding enjoyment and exercise of fundamental freedoms
and rights through arrests, prosecution, abductions, persecution of
human rights defenders including lawyers, journalists and ordinary
citizens and those perceived to be enemies of government.

More worrying is government’s reluctance to ensure that the African
Charter on Democracy and Good Governance which it signed on 28 March
2018 becomes binding and is incorporated to become part of domestic
law so as to promote democracy, good governance practice and a robust
electoral practice.
It is critical that government exhibits transparency, is responsive
and accountable in all its responses to combating coronavirus
including enforcement of national lockdown measures to ensure that any
emergency measures are legal, proportionate, necessary and
non-discriminatory and above respect human rights and the rule of law.

As we put a spotlight on democracy during COVID-19, ZLHR calls upon;

• Law enforcement agents to exercise due respect and restraint in
enforcing national lockdown measures.

• Government to speed up alignment of laws with the Constitution and
ensure adherence to principles of democracy and constitutionalism.

• Government to implement legal and administrative reforms to create a
conducive environment that guarantees the respect and enjoyment of
democracy and fundamental human rights and freedoms.

• Government to ratify and domesticate the African Charter on
Democracy, Elections and Good Governance.