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Govt A Stumbling Block To Democracy: NGOs

Local civil society groups under the banner of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) have expressed dismay over the continued disregard of democratic principles by the state aligned institutions in the country.

In a statement to mark the International Day of Democracy, the Forum said Government remained one of the stumbling blocks to the enjoyment of rights by citizens.

“It is concerning that the country is experiencing regression in the state of democracy. There is disregard for the fundamental principles of a democratic society, particularly, enforcement of the rule of law. Transparency and accountability of public officials, citizen participation in national processes our respect and promotion of basic human rights.

“The State has remained one of the key stumbling blocks to citizens actively demanding and enjoying their rights enshrined in the Constitution. The use of repressive laws to curtail the democratic space is a worrying affront to democracy. Laws such as the proposed Patriotic Bill and the Private Voluntary Organisation (PV0) Amendment Bill, among others have no place in a democratic  world.

“The Forum reminds the government that the bedrock of democracy is the ability of a citizen to actively demand and enjoy their civil and political rights without tear of victimization, harassment, torture, and possible abduction. The Forum also reminds the government of the Importance of individual liberties such as freedom of assembly and association and freedom of speech that underpin a democratic society,” said the Forum

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The NGOs among other issues implored the Government to prioritize its regional and international obligations as espoused in the various instruments that Zimbabwe is a signatory to.

“Respect enjoyment of civic and political rights by citizens such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of association, among other rights. Desist from inflammatory and hate speech that incites political violence and deepens political polarization as the nation heads towards 2023 harmonised elections. Investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and torture and hold perpetrators accountable. Domesticate and implement the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance,” the NGOs said.

Meanwhile, election lobby group, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) said the existing political environment does not allow for free and fair elections.

“As the country prepares for the 2023 Harmonised Elections, the existing political environment does not allow for a free, fair and credible election. By-elections held on 26 March 2022 and more recently in Gokwe Kabuyuni Constituency have been marred with violence and intimidation against opposition parties and have not passed the credibility test.

“As a matter of urgency, ERC urges the Government to swiftly implement reforms required to attain a free, fair and credible election. Failure to implement reforms will result in a disputed 2023 Harmonised election,” ERC said.

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