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Commonwealth Assessment: Zim Human Rights Record Under Spotlight

Zimbabwe’s human rights record will be under immense scrutiny from the Commonwealth assessment mission currently in the country to assess progress made by Harare since its application to rejoin the club of former British colonies.

Zimbabwe applied for re-admission into the 56-member bloc in 2018 which marked the start of the on-going assessments.

Government Ministers including Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Finance and Economic Development, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Home affairs today met the visiting Commonwealth delegation led by the Assistance Secretary General, Professor Luis Franceschi to give a briefing on progress on reforms in respective ministries.

In his opening speech, Franceschi said the team will be looking at progress on values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.

“This is an ongoing assessment we are doing. A report of the committee on the membership adopted in 2007 encourages that all members should comply with Commonwealth fundamental values and every country in the Commonwealth should demonstrate that commitment; democracy, rule of law, good governance, transparency in public accounting systems, promotion and protection of human rights freedoms, equality etc,” said Franceschi.

“Zimbabwe is a great nation. Amazing beauty, talented people, humble and cheerful and they have come knocking at the door of Commonwealth and we do not take that for granted.”

The delegation is expected to meet President Mnangagwa, senior government officials, opposition political parties, heads of diplomatic missions in Harare, and civil society organisations as part of its assessment.

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The Commonwealth assessment mission came at a time the main opposition political party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has accused government of unjustifiably persecuting its members ahead of next year’s general election.

This has been echoed by several political stakeholders including Amnesty International Zimbabwe which recently accused the government of politicizing the justice system by denying CCC legislators, Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole bail for four months.

Furthermore, Civic society organizations have blamed government for targeted attacks and arrests of student leaders and young Human Rights Defenders which was shrinking civic space.

However, government has refuted these allegations and claims to have made significant progress particularly in media reforms such as opening on community radio stations.

“I am aware that an update on our reform agenda is necessary to enable you to finalise your report on the informal consultations and as a result, my colleague Ministers here present, will furnish you with the details of progress made in each critical area of the reform agenda,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Fredrick Shava.

“To date, Government has made tremendous strides in enhancing civil and political rights of its citizens. There has been tremendous progress in the alignment of laws to the Constitution. Suffice to note that statutes that relate to human rights are being given priority in this process.”

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The process of re-admission entails several rigorous steps that all countries wishing to join the Commonwealth must undertake and includes countries’ adherence to the values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.

Some of the core values and principles of the Commonwealth declared by its Charter includes the following; democracy, human rights, international peace and security, tolerance, respect and understanding, freedom of expression, separation of powers, rule of law, good governance, sustainable development, protecting the environment, access to health, education, food and shelter, gender equality, importance of young people, recognition of needs of small states, recognition of needs of vulnerable states and the role of civic society.

Zimbabwe quit the Commonwealth in 2003 after the grouping resolved to extend sanctions against Robert Mugabe’s government for violating the group’s democratic values.

After Mugabe’s dethronement in 2017, the new administration replied for re-admission the following year.

The first assessment on Zimbabwe was done in 2019 with government committing to make major reforms sweeping across the political, social and economic spectrum.

Any country can join the modern Commonwealth. The last two countries to join the Commonwealth were Gabon and Togo in 2022.

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