ZANU PF MP for Buhera South Joseph Chinotimba was Thursday named the winner of the 2014 Human Rights Defender award, sparking outrage from Zimbabweans across the globe.
The comical legislator pulled 191 votes beating Radio and TV personality Rebecca Chisamba, Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko and MDC-T MP Jessie Majome who scored 171 and 155 votes each.
The ridicule which greeted the announcement that Chinotimba was amongst the nominees for the ZimRights organised awards immediately turned into outrage as soon as the ZANU PF legislator was announced the winner.
Zimbabweans took to the social media to condemn the awarding of the former Harare City Council security guard who rose to prominence as the leader of violent farm invasions in the early 2000s. The invasions claimed hundreds of lives, displaced thousands and maimed as much.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya led the outcries saying the award was a “mockery.” Ruhanya said Chinotimba, alongside his war veteran colleagues, committed crimes against civilians at the height of the Zimbabwe crisis.
“If people are not aware of historical events, it is not criminal to consult and in the run up to the 2000 violent elections, Chinotimba shot and injured a widow in Norah widow,” said Ruhanya.
A disturbed Ruhanya added: “He was arrested and charged with attempted murder but his criminal party intervened. He then changed suburbs to Marlborough where his new neighbours complained and demonstrated arguing that they could not have an attempted murderer as a neighbour. Now colleagues, what is really happening in civil society?”
Other social media activists described the development as “disgusting” and “outrageous” while others said the whole ceremony was “as comical as the winner.”
But others said Chinotimba deserved his award because he was voted by members of the public.
Chinotimba was nominated for both the outstanding Male MP Human Rights Defender of the year and The People’s Choice categories. Each province was required to select nominees and a consolidation was done to come up with the top ten individuals who emerged as the people’s favourites across the entire province.
Director of Harare Residents Trust, Precious Shumba, said it was probable that the organisers of the awards hoped “to sway the ZANU PF thinking from being hostile to civil society to be partners in building a better Zimbabwe.”
He said: “We can’t rule out the politics of compromise and penetration, where the recognition is probably meant to convey a certain message to the system of ZANU PF that you will be lavished with awards if you behave well.”