Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day of Peace. The commemorations for this year are running under the theme,” Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”. This years’ theme is in the context of the COVID 19 pandemic that has negatively impacted the prevalence of peace. The theme underscores the need for United Nations member states to think creatively and collectively about how to help everyone and recover better, how to develop resilience and transform the world into one that is more equal, just, inclusive, sustainable and healthier.
The COVID 19 crisis and the response to it are exacerbating conflict dynamics and existing patterns of inequality and increasing the risks of violence in communities. Incessant lockdowns that have been instituted as part of containing the spread of the virus have seen an increase in cases of human rights violations mostly by law enforcement agents against citizens. According to a Human Rights Watch report released in February 2021, the Zimbabwean government was using the COVID 19 pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The report cite an example of three female activists, Joana Mamombe,Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri who were arrested in May 2021 for protesting against the failure by government to provide payouts during the lockdown to contain the virus. Such incidents have disrupted peace and social cohesion in the country. Lack of confidence by citizens in the state has created a fearful citizen who is afraid to make positive contributions towards peace. Added to this, the economic crisis has potential of plunging the country into a wave of uncertainty and turmoil. All this dampen the spirit of commemorating the international day of peace.
Article 5 of the African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights highlight that, “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited”. The UN Resolution 2250 (2015) adopted by the Security Council on 9 December 2015 compel member states such as Zimbabwe to comply with their respective obligations to end impunity and further calls on them to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other egregious crimes perpetrated against civilians, including youths. Such a provision compels member states like Zimbabwe to cultivate a culture of upholding the fundamental human rights and freedoms such as freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Chapter 232 of the constitution of Zimbabwe establishes Independent Commissions particularly the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) whose mandate as enunciated in Section 252 (b) is to “develop and implement programmes to promote national healing, unity and cohesion in Zimbabwe and the peaceful resolution of disputes”.
On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, Heal Zimbabwe implores the state to promote national unity and peace in line with Section 10 of the constitution. This is achieved through fostering and respecting fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens such as the right to petition and demonstrate as provide for in Section 59 of the Constitution.