Zim human rights record under spotlight

By Tendai Kamhungira

Zimbabwe’s human rights record will once again go under the spotlight, as activist Evan Mawarire, pictured, is set to make a presentation on the situation in the country at the 10th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in Switzerland on February 20, 2018.

#ThisFlag protest movement leader Evan Mawarire
#ThisFlag protest movement leader Evan Mawarire

According to the Geneva Summit website, #ThisFlag movement leader Mawarire is going to be one of the speakers at the event, which draws rights activists from across the globe.

Some of the speakers include Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma, Canada’s former Justice minister Irwin Cotler, Ugandan activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera and Chinese activist Yang Jianli, among others.

“On the eve of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s main annual session, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy assembles each year hundreds of courageous dissidents and human rights victims, activists, diplomats, journalists and student leaders to shine a spotlight on urgent human rights situations that require global attention.

“The Geneva Summit is sponsored by an international coalition of 25 NGOs, and brings human rights heroes, dissidents, activists and political prisoners from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela and other countries to testify about their personal struggles for human rights, democracy and freedom,” the organisation said.

Mawarire became an overnight sensation after a couple of his videos posted on social media calling for Zimbabweans to confront deposed president Robert Mugabe’s government over failure to meet its obligations.

Following several videos, Mawarire — a pastor — was eventually arrested on allegations of inciting public violence, but the State later tried to change the charge to that of attempting to subvert a constitutionally-elected government.

The charges arose from Mawarire’s call for peaceful job stay-aways to force the government to address the public grievances that include corruption, police brutality and non-payment of civil servants’ salaries.

Mawarire was later released, before he left for South Africa and eventually settled in the United States.

He made a surprise return in February last year and was arrested upon arrival at the Robert Mugabe International Airport. He was however cleared of any wrong-doing by the High Court late last year.

The then High Court judge Priscillah Chigumba, who is now chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, said in the videos that the State relied upon, Mawarire always spoke about peaceful demonstrations as opposed to the claims by prosecutors that he demanded people to act in a violent manner.

Zimbabwe has over the years been battling a negative human rights record, owing to incarceration of political and social activists under the former president Robert Mugabe’s rule.

The current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came into power in November last year after the intervention of the army, has promised to uphold human rights as provided for in terms of the Constitution. DailyNews