As Zimbabwe marks five years after the adoption of the current constitution, a number of important provisions remain unimplemented, raising fears the harmonized elections set for later this year will not be free and fair, a local rights lobby group has said.
“Five years after the coming into effect of the people-driven Constitution is a crucial time to reflect on the state of its implementation and state of constitutionalism in the country,” said the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights).
“Notable is the fact that many important provisions of the Constitution have not been implemented, or in some cases are being systematically violated with impunity.”
The Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment 20) was assented to by former President Robert Mugabe in May 2013 and took effect in September of the same year.
ZimRights said it was concerned with the role the country’s military was playing in national politics ever since the November 2017 coup, code named “Operation Restore Legacy”, which saw the ouster of Mugabe, who was replaced by erstwhile deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“In line with the Constitution, the military has no right to interfere with the forthcoming 2018 harmonised elections, which need to be free, fair and credible,” the human rights body said, adding that the country’s Constitution provided for the non-partisan conduct by security forces, traditional leaders and the non-discrimination among other provisions.
Culture of constitutionalism
ZimRights added that it had become evident that the country still had a long way to go in the implementation of the constitution inculcating a culture of constitutionalism, which required the government to show political will and urgency.
“There has been delayed setting up of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), which has not done much work, despite its lifespan being only limited to 10 years, endangering the prospect for national healing, truth-telling and reconciliation, regarding past human rights violations in Zimbabwe.”
The organisation further noted that the country was struggling with impunity, injuries and trauma from previous rights violations as a result of the absence of healing and justice for all victims and perpetrators of political violence.
A robust Declaration of Rights in Chapter 4 of the Constitution had failed to stop human rights violations such as police brutality, abductions and denial of food aid on partisan basis, which have persisted in the five years.
Government, ZimRights suggested, should align all laws with the new Constitution, stop all conduct inconsistent with the supreme law and urgently implement political reforms to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
It also called for the protection, promotion and fulfilment for all citizens all human rights articulated in the Declaration of Rights and the full operationalization of all Constitutional Commissions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Gender Commission, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.