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We must demand our rights

By Conrad Nyamutata

OPINION – Human rights discourse delineates rights into two categories: economic, social and cultural rights on one hand, and civil and political rights on the other.

MDC-T youths protesting in Harare calling for an investigation into the disappearance of protest leader Itai Dzamara.(Photo By Thomas Chiripasi)
MDC-T youths protesting in Harare calling for an investigation into the disappearance of protest leader Itai Dzamara.(Photo By Thomas Chiripasi)

These rights are, however, indivisible; they should come as one package. But a look at Zanu PF politics shows that the regime has sought to divide these rights.

Emphasis has been placed on the “economic” rights. The post-colonial discourse has rested on the notion that all we need are material rights.

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Once we have land and have been “empowered” in other forms as black people, our lives are complete.

In the process, we have sacrificed our civil and political rights; sometimes called the “dignity” rights. We have allowed our personal dignity to be violated and lives taken away at will.

The abduction of Itai Dzamara, Jestina Mukoko before him some years ago, and murders of opposition members illustrate how we have surrendered our dignity rights or been made to do so.

Economic rights are, of course, important, given imbalances deriving from colonial history. But we will continue to be fooled if we think that possessing such rights alone makes our lives, as black Zimbabweans, complete.

Were we not also deprived of the dignity rights by the colonial regime?

I would argue that dignity rights are even more important than economic rights. Look, not all of us need or will get land or, more importantly, need it. We have sacrificed dignity rights on the promise of some illusive economic paradise.

The truth is that the majority of us are not enjoying either rights — economic or dignity. Dignity rights on the other hand are intrinsic to us as human beings and we need them.

But we have, largely, tended to be passive in the face of violation of such rights through these abductions and murders because they do not concern us; it is someone else’s funeral, literally. It is about Tonderai Ndira, Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika’s families, not mine.

And now, it is Dzamara’s. Well, “we” have land, haven’t we?

Such passivity has fortified a belief that our dignity rights are subaltern.

Dzamara is described by State media as lesser known or by some such terms of derisive diminution, as if being lesser known makes him a lesser being, deserving of lesser rights.

The carnage at French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, by theocratic fascists showed that the victim did not have to be as grand as New York Times to galvanise restatement of the fundamental right to free expression.

The whole world united in the name of this “unknown” and said: “Je suis (we are) Charlie”.

Dzamara typifies most of us “unknowns”; that’s why I say Je suis Itai. The majority of us live in poor suburbs like one he was picked up from, and use inelegant “township” barbers, like him.

He probably does not own a farm and does not need one. But what he certainly needs is the dignity right to express himself freely in a supposedly free country, and of course his right to life — and let us pray he returns to his family alive.

These are the rights that we, as Zimbabweans, have been made to believe are less important on the back of the promise of some individual economic wonderland for each of us.

One thing that distinguishes us from some Western societies is that their governments can impoverish them. But one thing you cannot take away from them is their dignity rights. Or if you do, you will be brought to account.

Are we lesser beings then in this dark south? The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was adopted in 2006.

We must demand all our rights. For far too long we have been fooled into believing that our lives are complete through “hondo yeminda” (the land reform programme).

Unless we are also prepared for “hondo yehunhu” (I thought there was something called “Ubuntu”?), like Itai and others, our dignity rights will continue to be trampled upon, sadly by those that claim to have “freed” us. Daily News