ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day of Peace with a call for both state and non-state actors to embrace and strengthen the ideals of peace and build a safer future for all people in Zimbabwe.
International Day of Peace which is observed around the world every year on 21 September, is devoted to strengthening principles of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.
International Day of Peace affords us an opportunity to reflect and recommit to the sincere undertaking by the United Nations and the global peoples to promote and safeguard peace throughout the world.
In 2020, International Day of Peace is commemorated under the theme “Shaping Peace Together.”
The theme could not be more appropriate as it galvanises us all to implement and respect instruments that enforce values such as peace, freedom, justice, equality, development and human dignity across Zimbabwe and the world.
In 2020, we commemorate International Day of Peace when we are grappling with an unprecedented global health pandemic in the form of coronavirus, which has thrown the world into turmoil and is compromising and putting peace at risk.
In Zimbabwe, the devastating social and economic consequences of coronavirus coupled with the unjust enforcement of national lockdown measures by government, have brought some forms of violence against people and robbed them of peace while exposing them to abuse and violation of several of their basic rights.
Unmeasured enforcement of national lockdown measures has resulted in the addition of yet another layer of tragedy and depriving people especially human rights defenders (HRDs) and ordinary citizens who are perceived as enemies of government from enjoying peace.
It is tragic and regrettable that state and non-state actors continue to work tirelessly to deny citizens peace and fundamental rights which were at the core of the struggle for liberation.
Forty years after the attainment of independence, Zimbabwe still carries the dictatorial hallmarks of erosion of personal liberties, repression, abductions, enforced disappearances, torture, surveillance and abuse of the criminal justice system to harass, intimidate and persecute HRDs and ordinary citizens.
State security agents and other non-state actors aligned to repressive elements of the old order continue acting with impunity to violate people’s rights.
Unwarranted harassment and arrests of lawyers, journalists and HRDs including students for carrying out their professional duties still continues.
ZLHR condemns the resort to acts of violence by any aggrieved parties to settle disputes.
Violence, in any form, and by any member of our society violates the right to personal security provided for in Section 52(a)(i) of the Constitution, which guarantees the right of every person to freedom from all forms of violence from public and private sources.
Tolerance of differing opinions is a crucial aspect of democracy and any violent actions will further limit the right of people to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms and rights to demonstrate and petition, peaceful assembly, expression and association, which are guaranteed in the Constitution and Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations.
Seven years after the enactment of a new Constitution, the process of national healing remains elusive and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission tasked with promoting cohesion, unity and reconciliation has failed to have any impact or effect.
All these transgressions are the hallmarks of government’s tragic failure to foster peace in Zimbabwe which should compel and hasten all of us to commit to re-orienting people’s attitudes towards respect for the Constitution, national laws, the rule of law as well as to build a society free of violence, fear, intimidation and hatred.
We must find ways of promoting inclusive approaches to conflict prevention and ending violence as a pathway for sustaining peace.