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Funny, we thought it was about human rights

By Cathy Buckle

Dear Family and Friends

It’s been a roller coaster week in Zimbabwe with major developments which will have a huge impact on the future of the country making news every day.

Theresa Makone, Patrick Chinamasa and Priscilla Misihairabwi
Theresa Makone (MDC-T), Patrick Chinamasa (Zanu PF) and Priscilla Misihairabwi (MDC-N)

First came news that a Zimbabwean woman who admitted to being actively involved with Zanu PF gangs and beating farm workers during two farm invasions has been denied refugee status in the UK.

At the UK Appeal Court, the Secretary of State found that the woman’s actions amounted to ‘crimes against humanity,’ were deemed to be ‘inhumane’ and determined the woman should be “excluded from refugee status.” This ruling has shown Zimbabwe the way.

Then came more good news.

A leaked report from a chapter in our draft constitution, which has still not been released, apparently states that every Zimbabwean by birth will retain their citizenship even if they have subsequently taken foreign citizenship. It’s hard to believe that we might be taking such a progressive step in our new constitution.

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It is one which acknowledges that a large proportion of our population is in the Diaspora and reminds us how much work, lobbying and petitioning has gone on by people outside the country. For this we thank them. Most estimates put the number of Zimbabweans who have fled the country in the last decade at three to four million – more than a quarter of our total population.

This dual citizenship story is far from over because voting rights for Zimbabweans by birth but now classed as ALIENS, both living at home and in the Diaspora, are not automatically guaranteed until amendments are made to the Electoral Act.

Next came sad news. After two years of delays, parliament finally passed the Human Rights Bill which will allow our established but impotent Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights abuses.

The passing of the Bill should have been cause for huge celebration but in fact it came with a proviso which has left us saddened, disgusted and feeling betrayed. The proviso to the Human Rights Act is that the Human Rights Commission will be barred from looking into any human rights atrocities committed before February 2009.

These atrocities, spanning decades and involving multiple thousands of people, will apparently be dealt with in a yet to be crafted piece of legislation by some yet to be identified institution at some yet to be specified time in the future. MDC MP’s were quoted as being delighted with the passing of the Human Rights Bill.

One MDC MP said that people should ‘take solace’ because any violations in the next election would be dealt with. “We are fighting to win an election,” he said. Funny, we thought this was about justice for victims of human rights atrocities, not winning elections.

The new Human Rights Act is small comfort for people whose loved ones are in their graves or for victims who still see their tormentors walking free on the streets amongst them. The roller coaster came to a juddering stop with the rumour that the EU are apparently considering dropping the last of their targeted sanctions against a hundred odd individuals in Zimbabwe.

The rumour was denied but as we know so well here, there’s no smoke without fire.

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy 14th July 2012. Copyright � Cathy Buckle. www.cathybuckle.com

For information on my new book “IMIRE”, about Norman Travers and Imire Game Park, or my other books about Zimbabwe: “Innocent Victims,” African Tears,” “Beyond Tears;” and “History of the Mukuvisi Woodlands 1910-2010”, or to subscribe/unsubscribe to this letter, please visit my website or contact [email protected]