The International Day of Democracy is marked on September 15, every year, as established by the UN General Assembly in 2007. It aims to encourage Governments to strengthen national programmes devoted to the promotion and consolidation of democracy.
This year, the day is being marked under the theme, “Strengthening democratic resilience in the face of future crises”.
As we mark the day, ZimRights continues to urge the government to use the human rights-based approach in tackling crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic as this will promote a responsive, accountable, efficient and transparent response system. This will also ensure that any emergency measures taken by our government to future crises are non-repressive, legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory.
Section 1 of the Constitution states that, “Zimbabwe is a unitary, democratic and sovereign republic.” The link between democracy and human rights is captured in article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
The principle of holding elections and allowing citizens to be represented by members of their choice is essential for democracy to thrive. ZimRights is therefore greatly disturbed by the weaponization of the Covid -19 pandemic to upset representative democracy.
ZimRights believes that a thriving democracy also depends on open and vibrant civic space, in which people advocate for their rights and hold the government to account with equal rights and without discrimination.
ZimRights notes with great concern the criminisalition of civil society work through amendments to the Private Voluntary Organisation Act work and plans to enact the Patriotic Bill all aimed at shrinking the democratic space.
The militarisation of key state institutions and excessive cyber policing also hamper the efforts to democratize and results in the trampling of citizen’s rights
ZimRights calls on the government of Zimbabwe to enhance democracy through:
- Respecting and upholding the rights of citizens
- Holding by-elections in constituencies that no longer have representatives
- Allowing CSOs to freely carry out their work
- Desisting from using the courts to punish human rights defenders and political opponents