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STAKEHOLDERS’ ENGAGEMENT MEETING WITH THE COMBINED HARARE RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION, CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS AND OTHER KEY PLAYERS IN THE HEALTH CARE SERVICE DELIVERY SYSTEM AT HOLIDAY INN HARARE, ON 6 FEBRUARY 2017
All Protocol Observed
Good morning to you all. I feel greatly honoured to be accorded this opportunity on behalf of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to give these remarks at this interface meeting with the leadership of various Civil Society Organisations represented here. I am also reliably informed that the invitation to this meeting was extended to duty bearers that include the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the City of Harare, Civic Protection Unit and other Key Players as listeners and observers. May I start by expressing the Commission’s gratitude, to the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) for organising this meetingwhich is part of an initiative to promote and protect the right to health threatened by the typhoid outbreak in Harare’s Mbare, Budiriro and Glen View suburbs amongst others.
Besides the health related concerns, ZHRC and organisations represented here are also greatly concerned by the continued unplanned allocation of residential stands. Consequently, houses and other structures have been built on unsuitable land (like wetlands) leading to the current flooding of houses in some parts of the city resulting in the violation of the right to property.
This Stakeholder meeting is therefore an interactive platform extended to the Commission by CHRA and its Civil Society Partners to gather your views and submissions on the typhoid outbreak and flooding problem in Harare so that the Commission can get a clearer view of the situation. Besides meeting CHRA the Commission has also carried out investigations on the floods that affected some parts of Mbare residential suburb and compiled a report. The key findings, conclusions and recommendations are going to be presented and discussed in this meeting.
This Stakeholder Engagement meeting is an important opportunity for the Commission to interface with Civil Society Organisations active in the health delivery system as represented here and therefore let me start by briefly appraising you about the establishment, mandate and work of the ZHRC.
The ZHRC was created in terms of Section 100R of the Lancaster House Constitution which has since been repealed and is currently established in terms of Sections 232 and 242 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe as one of the five Chapter 12 Independent Commissions Supporting Democracy in Zimbabwe. ZHRC became fully operational in June 2014 upon the recruitment of members of the Commission’s secretariat. The mandate of the Commission is to promote, protect and enforce human rights.
The ZHRC is the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) for Zimbabwe whose activities are directed at deepening the democratic sphere and promoting human rights in the country. So far, three departments have been established to execute the mandate of the Commission: namely Complaints Handling and Investigations, Education, Promotion and Research as well as, the Monitoring and Inspections Department. The Commission deals with complaints of abuses and violations of rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and in any international human rights agreements that the country has signed and any complaints arising from abuse of power or maladministration by the State and public institutions and by Officers of those institutions.
I take note of our progressive Constitution, in particular, the expanded Bill of Rights (Chapter 4) comprising of both civil and political rights as well as environment, social and economic rights. While environment, economic, social and cultural rights are to be progressively realised depending on the availability of resources, the State and all public institutions that include the Local Authorities or City Councils are required at law to take all steps necessary to ensure the enjoyment of all rights. Furthermore, Zimbabwe is party to a number of international human rights treaties that guarantee the right to health and health care, as protected, for example, Article 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides that
‘all peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development’.
May I draw everyone’s attention to the principle of indivisibility and interdependency of human rights which makes the right to healthcare, one of the most fundamental rights, for put simply, one has to be alive and in good health to be able to exercise and enjoy all other rights.
Enhancement of the right to healthcare, as enshrined in Section 76 of our Constitution, is therefore the purpose of this gathering. The right to health means that everyone does not just have a right to basic health care services but the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, which includes access to all medical services, sanitation, adequate food, decent housing, healthy working conditions, and a clean environment. Thus, Section 76 should be read in conjunction with Section 77 which provides for the right to food and water as well as Section 73 on environmental rights, all of which are underlying determinants of health. In this regard, it is imperative for Local Authorities as duty bearers to adhere to and respect the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Urban Councils Act, Environment Management Act and International Treaties in the discharge of their duties in order to protect the rights of citizens including both environmental and health rights.
From the briefing that we had with CHRA, and the submissions that they made to us, residents are concerned that the City of Harare does not appear to have an Emergency Disaster Preparedness and/or Disaster Management Plan in place to respond timeously and effectively to the outbreak of typhoid and other public health epidemics.One of the key requests by CHRA was for the Commission to intervene and ensure that the City of Harare deals with the major drivers of typhoid such as lack of clean, safe and portable water, poor sanitation facilities as well as erratic waste management. Allegedly, the failure by the City to address these major drivers has exposed residents to typhoid, which is indeed a violation of their right to health.
As a Commission, we acknowledge that the issues raised by CHRA are pertinent, and in fact, the Commission had on its own initiative started investigating the issues so that corrective measures are taken to prevent unnecessary loss of lives. The issues are therefore quite relevant from a human rights perspective. We acknowledge that the crisis in Harare could be a localized indication to a national problem as well but as a Commission we have to investigate and verify facts before we can make any conclusions.
The Commission, however, also draws your attention to Section 44 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which gives the duty to respect, promote and fulfil rights and freedoms to the State, and every person, including juristic persons, in this case, the business sector, in particular our industrial sector.Promotion and protection of environmental rights and the right to healthcare requires a multi-sectoral response and strategy involving all key stakeholders, including the private sector and communities themselves. ZHRC therefore urges residents to play their part by maintaining hygienic conditions around the spaces that they occupy.
Let me end by reiterating that we are here today to gather your views and submissions on the typhoid outbreak and flooding problem in Harare so that we can get a clearer view of the situation. After that, we will take these issues to the authorities and make recommendations on how they can be best addressed. I encourage all representatives present to be free and to participate actively.
I thank you all for coming and I look forward to fruitful deliberations.