OBITUARY

 

Wilfred Mhanda (May 1950-May 2014)

Dzinashe Machingura: A dedicated Revolutionary, People’s Soldier to the end

 

On 28 May 2014, Wilfred Mhanda whose nom de guerre was Dzinashe Machingura passed on at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals after a long battle with colon cancer. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

 

THE respected Zimbabwean revolutionary, Dzinashe Machingura, was born Wilfred Mhanda in Gweru on May 26, 1950.

 

He did his primary education in Gutu District of the then Fort Victoria from 1957 before he transferred to Dadaya Mission in 1962 for his Junior Secondary Certificate, and Goromonzi for his O-and A-Levels, where he started student activism before matriculating at the then University of Rhodesia.

 

He joined the liberation struggle around 1971, and was part of the first people to have trained guerilla warfare with the purpose of liberating Zimbabwe, in Tanzania.

 

Mhanda joined the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) High Command in January 1975 as Camps Commissar/Deputy Political Commissar.

 

Around the same time, Mhanda participated in the Mgagago Declaration of October 1975 in Tanzania with armed guerrilla fighters as one of its main architects, which was a recommitment to the waning liberation struggle; it famously declared, “If we can not live as free men, we rather choose to die as free man.”

 

As member of the ZANLA High Command, he became deputy political commissar of the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) in November 1975, a merger with the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), which is credited for reviving the liberation war after a period of lull called détente and demobilization by the Rhodesian government and its allies.

 

ZIPA came after failure, which was retarding the liberation struggle, by the political leaders of Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) to unite after their split in 1963.

 

Machingura was detained in 1977 under the instruction of President Robert Mugabe after a disagreement in January that year until 1980.

 

After independence, Machingura, whose non-de guerre (war time name) largely stuck, did not tire in his search for a genuine national democratic order, becoming one of the main critics of the new order for its oppressive excesses.

 

He was instrumental in the formation of civil society organizations such as the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) where he was the first chairperson of the Advocacy Committee.

 

He founded the Zimbabwe Liberators’ Platform as well as contributing to the work of National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) among others.

 

In the following years, Machingura would write his autobiographical book, using “Dzino” short version of his non de guerre titled, Dzino: Memories of a freedom fighter, which gives important insights into the struggle and its purpose.

 

Having been instrumental in bringing about the new state of Zimbabwe, both as a commander of commanders and trainer of trainers of liberation war fighters, he remained humble and an active fighter for a just socio-political order to the end, even it meant breaking ranks with his fellow fighters.

 

Machingura passed away on Wednesday, May 28, after a long colon cancer illness, and two days after turning 64 years old.

 

People like Machingura would normally be laid to rest at the Heroes’ Acre, but for his criticism of the government he may be sidelined.

 

According to an SW Radio Interview of 2012, however Mhanda said he did not believe in conferring hero’s status on anyone, reasoning that the practice was meant to distribute patronage and that many ordinary soldiers, and people had contributed to the struggle for all of them to be remembered and honored.

 

Mourners are gathered at Number 7 Sudbury Road, Monavale, and Harare.

 

“I am devastated by the news of Mhanda’s passing on. He was a great comrade and he really as the person who established the Crisis Coalition Advocacy and other committee systems. His passion was indestructible. After John Makumbe and Barnabas Mangodza , I certainly did not expect to have to mourn yet another stalwart,” Brian Kagoro, former Crisis Coalition Chairperson.

 

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Stands in Solidarity with his Family, Friends and all Zimbabweans in Mourning This Great Liberator! May His Soul Rest In Peace!    

 

Comrade Dzino, go well, we celebrate Your Illustrious Life!

 

HARARE -- More than four hundred people marched today, Thursday 22 May 2014 in solidarity with #BringBackOurGirls Campaign and called on the African heads of states, Nigerian Government, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and United Nations to unite in finding the abducted schools girls in Nigeria and work on eradicating of all forms violations against women.

Addressing participants gathered after March at the Africa Unity Square, Director of Female Prisoner Support Trust (FEMPRIST), Mrs Rita Nyamupinga highlighted that the march was in solidarity with worldwide calls and action to bring back the abducted Nigerian School girls but also a call to fight all forms of violations against women in Zimbabwe, Africa and the world.

 

We have gathered here with sadness and heavy hearts because violations against the girl child and women have increased in our homes,” said Nyamupinga

 

It is not only about the girls in Nigeria but a clear message that we as women in Zimbabwe are saying NO to any forms of violations against women.

 

Also addressing the marchers Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) Program Officer,Diana Mirosi hailed the women and men who had taken their time to participate and noted the importance of solidarity.

 

“An injury to one is an injury to all. “Do you want your child to die first and then start acting? Abuse of women is happening every day in our neighbourhoods and we should say NO,” she said.

 

Solidarity is important because the day when you are faced with challenges people will come to your assistance. There is power in numbers

 

Director of Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace Building (ZWNP) Grace Chirenje who was also part of the organisers equated Boko Haram to anyone who infringes on the rights of women and girls.

 

If you abuse women you are Boko Haram.

 

“We are gathered here calling for the safe rescuing of these school girls to their homes ,” she said.

 

The Director of Artist for Democracy in Zimbabwe (ADZT) and chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Arts and Culture Committee, Mehluli Dube castigated the cowardly behaviour of Boko Haram by targeting defenceless school children with weapons and hiding behind culture.

 

We register our displeasure today against the abduction of defenceless young girls who have been robbed of their future”

 

“This kind of harassment, violation and cruelty should not be tolerated and should be condemned in the strongest terms”

 

“In Zimbabwe we are facing the same challenges where women have also been deprived of their education, their sanitary wear and freedom”

 

“We are calling on the African Heads of States to unite and act on bringing back the girls.,” Dube added.

 

Ms Talent Jumo Director of Katswe Sistahood concluded the event by reading out and presenting the petition on behalf of civil society groups to Mr Abrahim Ahmed Saleh, Minister (Information, Education and Culture) from the Nigerian Embassy.

 

Other civil society organisations which gave solidarity speeches included Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), Women Action Group (WAG) and Women Film Makers of Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 16:31

Government starts alignment of laws

Harare -- AN OFFICIAL in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has said the government is in the process of aligning laws with the new Constitution.

Mr. Manhivi, who represented the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Virginia Mabhiza, assured civil society that the process was underway at a meeting held at the Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) offices in Harare on Thursday, May 22.

 

“After the coming into force of the new Constitution, government embarked on the exercise of alignment of laws with the constitution,” he said.

 

“This process is also in line with the government’s blueprint, ZimAsset, in the cluster of social services and poverty reduction.

 

“Each Ministry has a set of legislation that it administers, and it should identify these, and submit them to the Attorney General.

 

“The process started through the Ministry of Justice by inviting other Ministries to identify laws that needed to be aligned.”

 

Manhivi said that there were two sets of laws, those that are substantive such as administrative Acts which would be handled by line Ministries and those that are non-substantive such as those dealing with name changes, which would be dealt with under the General Laws Amendment Bill.

 

The official said the general Bill would cater for approximately 300 laws, which are mostly non-substantive amendments.

 

Manhivi said the alignment process was not a one-day job, and it was difficult to forecast when it would be completed, citing that there shall be need for back referrals, where the Bills from the Legislative Amendment Department are not properly drafted.

 

“The number of laws involved makes it not an easy task, but as government we are committed that this is completed within a reasonable time.

 

“And a reasonable time can be any time,” added Manhivi.

           

Harare -- PROMINENT lawyer and law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Professor Lovemore Madhuku, has said government is postponing the operation of the new Constitution, under the false cover of impending alignment of laws.

 

Madhuku was speaking to civil society at a meeting held at the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) in Harare on Thursday, May 22, where he said that the concept that the new constitutional dispensation cannot be fully enjoyed, before the snail-paced alignment of laws is complete was “a Zimbabwean nonsense.”

(Prof. Lovemore Madhuku)

“There is a Zimbabwean nonsense that is called alignment of laws, as if they are not aligned we must live under the old laws,” said Madhuku.

 

“But the constitution says, ‘I am the supreme law.’

 

“They [government officials] have postponed the operation of the constitution through the language of alignment.

 

“This is the Zimbabwean nonsense, that the constitution alone is not enough.

 

“I must assure you that the constitution in itself is enough.”

 

Madhuku said the constitution made the laws, which are not in agreement with its provisions void with or without alignment of Acts of Parliament and statutory instruments.

 

If something is void, it is void.

 

“Aligning is to ensure that there is no debate,” he said.

 

The law lecturer said the constitution was meant to be adhered to, because that was the reason why it was written.

 

“I thought I should start by saying that a constitution is meant to be adhered to, that’s why it is written.

 

“That’s the ideal, that the constitution is not there as a decoration, but as a serious document that must be complied with,” said Madhuku.

 

Madhuku urged people to now live the new constitution, according to their own interpretations without overreliance on the so-called alignment process, or so-called privy individuals, such as those officials who were part of Global Political Agreement (GPA), which guided its writing.

 

We have a new constitution in place, which must make sense with or without the framers, with or without the negotiators,” he said.

 

Madhuku urged civil society to raise awareness among the populace on what the constitution says, warning that there were provisions, which the politicians were not prepared to follow through; although they wanted to be seen to be supporting their inclusion during the constitution making exercise.

 

Civil society should tell the people that “there is a constitution in place, it provides for these things, and these things are not being done,” he said.

 

Madhuku said: “It creates an irritating situation for politicians.

 

“And they will try to change.

 

“That is the road that this country has travelled since 1997.

A DELEGATION of Zimbabwean civil society has visited Malawi, as the country holds its general elections, and hopes to use the opportunity to highlight post-electoral challenges in Zimbabwe.

 

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Chairperson Dewa Mavhinga headed the delegation which left Zimbabwe on Sunday, May 18, 2014.

(Dewa Mavhinga)

We want to use the opportunity to share our challenges with the organizations in Malawi and progressive organisations from the region so that we strengthen our solidarity network on Zimbabwe,” read part of the briefing paper to be shared with regional civil society by the local delegation.

 

“It is against this background that we are in Malawi, engaging with the people of Malawi and exhorting their honourable government to persuade political players in Zimbabwe to take note of the issues we are raising in this briefing paper.”

 

Some of the issues raised on Zimbabwe, include the economic deterioration, a flawed election held in July 2013 and delayed implementation of the new Constitution.

 

The delegation also expressed solidarity with the people of Malawi during their national elections.

 

“We also want to take this opportunity to wish Malawi peaceful free and fair elections,” they said.

 

The delegation met the Malawi Elections Information Centre (MEIC), were they were briefed about the Malawi General Election.

 

Part of the challenges that the MEIC highlighted was deliberate demobilisation of civil society by the state in Malawi in recent years, according to CiZC Regional Information and Communications Officer, Levison Kabwato.

 

“…2/3 years before polling, civil society organisations were battered and bruised,” posted Kabwato on Crisis Coalition handle, on the microblogging site Twitter on Monday, May 19 from Malawi.

 

He added: "The playing field is far from level."

 

"Media coverage is too executive-focused, with less attention to the local government elections.

 

“Inadequate funding for the elections and civic education may affect the quality of the electoral process.

 

"The credibility of the Voters' Roll is still questionable."

Harare - Civil Society today, May 22 2014, held a march in solidarity with the 297 school girls abducted by the militant, terrorist group, Boko Haram in Nigeria. The march was in support of various initiatives which are being conducted around the world in raising awareness as well as putting pressure on the Nigerian Government, African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the international community to collaborate their efforts in rescuing the girls and thwarting terrorism in the continent.

The March which started from the Townhouse in Harare went through Robert Mugabe Avenue and 3rd Street to the Africa Unity Square where it ended after solidarity messages and presentation of the petition to a Nigerian Representative, Mr Ibrahim Ahmed. Men and women from different walks of life joined the march calling for respect and justice for women and children their communities.

The organisers of the march which included Katswe Sistahood , Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace Building (ZYWNP) and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) echoed calls on ending human rights violations against the girl child and women in Africa.

 

 

Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:31

CSOs say nation needs healing

Harare -- COMMUNITY based organisations that deal with issues of peace and reconciliation in communities affected by past conflicts and human rights abuses have said the nation still needs to be healed and united.

 

Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) said in a statement that the recent call by government for nominations of commissioners to the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) -- among other independent commissions -- revived hope of rebuilding communities that have suffered varying types of violations over the last decade.

The organisation said the Commission was important given that the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation (ONHRI) established under the now defunct Global Political Agreement (GPA) of September 2008 had left the healing work largely unaccomplished.

 

It is the Commission's responsibility to make sure justice is done to survivors of past human rights abuses,” said Heal Zimbabwe.

 

The NPRC comes as the first major deliberate and legal effort that seeks to deal with Peace and Reconciliation that can spearhead national healing.

 

“The Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation which was tasked with the responsibility at the inception of the Inclusive Government reached its full lifespan without resolving any past injustices.”

 

HZT called upon citizens to nominate people of integrity to execute the mandate of the Commission.

 

In light of this, the Organisation calls upon the nation to nominate men and women of character who shall clearly serve their country in the NPRC and fulfill the mandate without fear or favour,” the organisation said.

 

 “HZT has embarked on public awareness campaigns to familiarize Chapter 12 of the Constitution to rural community members in an effort to raise awareness on the importance of the Constitutional provision and how communities shall benefit from it in ensuring a peaceful, just and tolerant Zimbabwe.”

 

Human Rights NGO Forum recently said in a statement that public consultations in the setting and operation of the NPRC would be important.

 

The public can only participate if they are fully informed of the process,” said NGO Forum. 

 

While the parliament has already published the call for nominations, it has not made any effort to sensitize the public about the NPRC and its functions.

 

 

“This creates the danger of creating an elite commission to which survivors have neither access nor confidence. 

 

“The NPRC is not a culmination of state benevolence towards the survivors. 

 

“Rather, it is a product of a long struggle for justice and accountability in Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe have since 1998 been demanding such a commission.

 

 

“Therefore, they deserve a commission that can fulfill their aspirations for a just and accountable society.”

 

 

The NPRC which is set to operate for 10 years, from the day the new Constitution was adopted in 2013 has already lost almost a year of its lifespan, and may see its lifespan further whittled down if not speedily operationalised.

 

 

In the past three decades after independence, Zimbabwe has been the site of a variety of conflicts such as political violence, human rights violations and ethnic cleansing.

 

 

When the commission comes into force, it will have to facilitate reconciliation, peace-building and preventative initiatives.

 

Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:47

Human rights lawyer honoured

PROMINENT human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, board chairperson of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), has won the international and prestigious 2014 Ivan Allen Jr Prize for Social Courage, which comes with a cash prize of over US $ 100 000.

(Beatrice Mtetwa)

The decorated lawyer, who has received several international awards for her work in defending human rights activists and journalists in the country, becomes the first woman to receive the award.

 

Mtetwa will be officially honoured during a ceremony at the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts scheduled for November 13, 2014.

 

In a career spanning over 20 years, Mtetwa has walked a bumpy road characterized by numerous arrests and detention as well as victimisation by state institutions and functionaries.

 

A few weeks ago, the government through the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) filed a High Court application, seeking to leave to appeal against her discharge on charges of obstructing the course of justice, which had been dropped by a Magistrates’ court.

 

Nevertheless, as shown by the latest honour, Mtetwa’s work has not been short of acknowledgement.

 

The awards were sponsored by several other non-governmental organisations and the civic society groups.

 

 

Last year, the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, also presented Mtetwa with an honorary degree of Doctors of Laws, for championing human rights and free speech in Zimbabwe.

 

 

Previously, Mtetwa won the Inamori prize for ethics, the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Human Rights Award from the American Bar Association section of litigation, and the Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize from France.

 

Harare -- CIVIL society has roundly criticized the current government efforts to reform the Electoral Amendment Bill, saying the recently held consultative indabas were ‘cosmetic’ meetings.

 

Election Resource Center (ERC) Director Tawanda Chimhini said government especially Parliament had to take the alignment of laws with the new Constitution seriously.

 

It has emerged that parliamentarians showed lack of interest in the recent public consultations held countrywide with regards to the Bill with most of them not attending, while others walked out in the middle of proceedings.

 

What we are basically saying is that when we petitioned Parliament we were clear that, as a way of allowing public participation guaranteed by new Constitution, genuine public meetings had to be held,” said Chimhini.

 

We noticed that procedurally Parliament did not take the hearings seriously.

 

You find that parliamentarians did not attend hearings in their constituencies.

 

“Only four of the 23 members of the Parliamentary Legal Committee attended the public consultations.

 

“This was a clear indication that they were not serious.

 

“In Harare, parliamentarians and members of the Committee walked out in the middle of proceedings, causing the chairperson to say the meeting could not go ahead because there was no quorum.”

(Tawanda Chimhini)

The ERC director, Chimhini, said Parliament did not distribute copies of the draft Bill in advance, forcing people to contribute without any guidelines.

 

“It would be folly for Parliament to expect other players like civil society to do work that the legislative arm of government has a constitutional mandate to perform,” said Chimhini.

 

“In all hearings, there was no prior distribution of the draft bill.

 

“People should be able to participate from an informed position, given that the constitution says people have a right to information.

 

“We fear that it was a ritual exercise.”

 

Chimhini said if the skin-deep alignment of the Electoral Act was an indication of how other laws would be aligned to the new Constitution, then the process would not add value to expected legislative reform.

 

“We have over 200 laws that will need to be aligned with the new Constitution, if the public hearings we saw are an indication of what is to come then we are in trouble,” he said.

 

“Further, the current confirmation by the Justice Minister that this is a preliminary process shows that this is not serious.

 

“It’s shocking because how can you make it preliminary when you have over 200 laws that would also need to be aligned.

 

“It’s an attempt to legitimize the Statutory Instrument by President Robert Mugabe that was enforced through presidential powers which expired in December 2013, save for the issue of the special vote.

 

“To us, this is a stop gap measure which falls far below our expectations on comprehensive electoral reform.”

 

He said that people who participated in the sham public hearings indicated that they wanted electoral law reform that goes beyond the scope of the current Bill.

 

“We also encourage that they take what people said seriously because even under the circumstances people spoke,” he said.

 

“The generality of Zimbabweans who participated, their scope of electoral reform goes beyond the current cosmetic process.

 

“They talked about things that go beyond the current Electoral Amendment Bill, so it is not exhaustive.”

 

Attempts to get hold of Jessie Majome, chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee did not materialise as her phone went answered.

Harare -- CIVIL society has come out in solidarity with the families of the over 270 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted last month by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, from a remote school in north-eastern Nigeria.

 

On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network on Peace-Building (ZYWNP) activists marched to the Nigerian Embassy in Zimbabwe in solidarity with the victims’ families and expressed their message to the Nigerian government both in calling for a safe school system and condemnation of Boko Haram.

 

ZYWNP Director Grace Chirenje, a potent feminist, said the action was meant to indicate that they were African sisters moved by a pan-African concern for fellow women in Nigeria.

 

We are pan-Africanist, and as such we want things to move well in Africa,” she said.

 

We are African sisters; anything that concerns African women concerns us.

 

“We went to the Nigerian Embassy to offer support to the girls’ families and to offer solidarity to President Goodluck Jonathan to say it is not only about bringing the girls back.

 

“It is also about bringing them back to safe schools.

 

“It might not bring the girls, but start a conversation around safe schools in Chibok, and Boko Haram as a terrorist movement.”

Boko Haram, the name by which the notorious militant, Islamist group is called by the Hausa-speaking people in northern-eastern area Maiduguri, means, “Western or non-Islamic education is forbidden,” and the movement’s main goal is to stop Nigerian girls from entering schools.

 

The group’s official, Arabic name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awatiwal-Jihad, which loosely translates to mean “people who preach and follow the life of Mohammed.”

 


Chirenje said the trend of ‘Boko Haramism’ was prevalent in Africa, including in Zimbabwe where various reasons are used to deprive girls of education, or marry them off at a tender age.

 

 

Anyone who abuses the girl child and limit their opportunities in schools, they are Boko Haram,” she said.

 

 

Families that offer their children to child marriages, they are Boko Haram.

 

 

“The only difference is that they are not using guns, they are using the excuse of poverty and religion to marry these youths off.

 

 

“They are using religion and poverty as guns.”

 

 

Several civil society organisations in Zimbabwe have joined the #BringBackOurGirls international campaign, which was triggered by global news of the abductions last month.

 

 

Most of these civil organisations have already issued statements condemning the actions of the group, which has killed and abducted thousands of civilians in the West African nation.

 

 

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Spokesperson Mfundo Mlilo, in a statement on Tuesday, May 13, said the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should be at the forefront of resolving the human rights crisis.

 

 

“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits ‘abduction, sale or traffic of children for any purpose,’” said Mlilo.

 

 

“We are fully cognisant of the anguish and pain the families are going through.

 

 

“We also welcome the international support that has been rendered to the Nigerian government towards the finding and rescuing of the abducted girls.

 

 

“We also urge ECOWAS, and African Union (AU) members to play their part, these are after all African Children and well-wishers cannot be expected to weep more than the bereaved.”

 

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