GLOBAL human rights lobby group, Amnesty International (AI) has called on the Zimbabwean electorate to seize the opportunity availed by the July 30 polls to elect leaders committed to improving the country’s battered human rights record.
By Xolisani Ncube
In a statement titled Breaking away from the past: A human rights manifesto for Zimbabwe’s political parties and candidates, AI said under former President Robert Mugabe’s rule, the election period was synonymous with killings, disappearances and arrests of opposition activists.
“With Mugabe gone, there is a real opportunity for a fresh start for Zimbabwe and a chance to break with history and ensure that human rights are fully respected in the context of the elections and beyond,” AI regional deputy director Muleya Mwananyanda said.
Mugabe ruled the country for 37 years with an iron grip, forcing millions of Zimbabweans out of the country in search of a better life elsewhere.
In the 2008 elections, more than 200 opposition MDC-T activists were killed by suspected State security agents.
“One of the hallmarks of Mugabe’s rule was a brutal crackdown on human rights defenders. Journalist and pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara has been forcibly disappeared since March 9, 2015 after demanding th resignation of Mugabe for violating human rights and mismanaging the economy,” Mwananyanda said in a statement.
Mugabe’s rule has also been condemned for propagating draconian laws such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to clamp down on freedom of expression and association.
Political analyst Elton Ziki said the forthcoming elections could offer a breakaway from the governance and leadership style of Mugabe, underlining that it was now time for the nation to collectively focus on development.
“It is a break away from the governance and leadership style of Robert Mugabe. From a citizen point of view, we must collectively as a nation face the approach of development and transform the social standing of our people,” he said.