Honourable Minisiter of State for Provincial Affairs for Midlands Province, Honourable Jason Machaya.

Other Ministers here present

Chairperson for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Commissioner Elasto H. Mugwadi.

Deputy Chairperson for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Commissioner Ellen Sithole.

Commissioners of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and other Commissions here present.

Members of Parliament.

Development and Donor Partners.

The Provincial Administrator for Midlands Province, Madam Cecilia Chitiyo

Our Traditional Leaders

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Secretariat and Secretariat of other Commissions here present.

Vice Chancellors of Universities.

Gweru City Councillors and other Councillors from the Midlands Province

Directors and Officers of Government Line Ministries

Directors and Staff of Civil Society and Faith Based Organizations.

Representatives of the Private Sector

Members of the Media Fraternity.

Performing Artistes here present.

All Protocol Observed.

It is a great honour to address you on this important day on the International Human Rights Calendar where we are joining the global community in commemorating the International Human Rights Dayunder the theme“Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today.” This commemoration held annually on 10 December coincides with the date when the United Nations Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) based on the principles of “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”. This Declaration arose directly from the horrific experiences of the Second World Warand represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beingsare inherently entitled.

In 1950, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the first universal statement of the principle that all human beings have certain inherent rights that are inalienable and has quoted the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “set the direction for all subsequent work in the field of human rights and has provided the basic philosophy for many legally binding international instruments designed to protect the rights and freedoms which it proclaims’’.

Ladies and gentlemen, the thirty articles of the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights touch on various rights that include the right to freedom, dignity and equality, the right not to be discriminated against, the right to life, liberty and security, freedom form torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, recognition as a person before the law, equality before the law, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association, the right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living which includes adequate food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, the right to education and the right to culture. Although the Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights was not originally intended to be a legally binding document, it has since become part of enforceable international customary law and has inspired many human rights instruments which together constitute a binding set of international standards of human rights.

As you may be aware, Zimbabwe besides subscribing to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a member of the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has ratified and acceded to many international, regional and sub-regional human rights treaties. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender and Development Protocol. Each of these treaties imposes obligations on signatory governments to implement, nationally, the human rights standards contained in those treaties.

This year, 2016 is Africa Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women, where we commemorate and celebrate significant milestones in Africa’s continental human rights history. It is now 26 years since the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child or simply the African Children’s Charter. This year is the 35th anniversary of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and also the 10th anniversary of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Declaration of 2016 as the Africa Year of Human Rights has provided us with a further opportunity to consolidate the achievements we have made over the years with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights whilst at the same time being mindful of the challenges we continue to experience collectively as members of the African Union and individually in our different countries in Africa.

Zimbabwe recently participated in the Second Cycle of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR)process at the beginning of November 2016, a unique process which involves a review of the human rights record of all UN Member States. The UPR, a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, provides opportunity for each State to report on the actions it has taken to improve the human rights situation and to fulfil its human rights obligation. Let me highlight our participation in this process enabled Government, Civil Society, National Human Rights Institutions, Business and Labour to come together to make contributions on the progress of human rights promotion and protection in Zimbabwe.

Our current Constitution has an expanded Bill of Rights, which is Chapter 4 which goes a long way to domesticate most of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international, regional and sub-regional human rights treaties that Zimbabwe has ratified and acceded to. These Rights includes civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, environmental rights, and an elaboration of women’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, children, older persons and war veterans.

Ladies and gentlemen my Ministry in line with its mandate of promoting the development and growth of SMEs and Co-operatives recognises their importance in fulfilling economic rights of both men and women, ex-prisoners, other disadvantaged members of the communities and those at the bottom of the pyramid guided by our  Economic Blue-print, ZimAsset. It stands for economic justice through economic inclusion of the economically marginalised.

SMEs are playing a pivotal role in the development of many countries. According to the World Bank (2015), in emerging economies formal MSMEs contribute up to 45% of total employment and contribute up to 33% of national income (GDP) and they are creating 4 out of every 5 new jobs. Zimbabwe is no exception as almost 5.7 million people are employed in the SME sector and the sector contributes more than 50% of the country’s GDP.

Government is aware of the challenges being faced by MSMEs which are inhibiting them from meaningfully contributing to the economic development of our country. The ministry is implementing several strategies such as the formulation of policies to create a conducive operating environment for SMEs and Co-operatives, mobilise resources for SME development and provision of funding through SMEDCO, facilitating training in business management and entrepreneurship skills, market access, provision of infrastructure and access to technology for SMEs through technologies centres and common facility centres, marketing linkages and cluster development. I urge you to approach my offices at district and provincial level for assistance.

It is critical that institutional arrangement should be put in place to ensure that rights provided for in various international, regional and sub-regional agreements that Zimbabwe has signed, including those in our Constitution be known by the generality of the people through effective promotion, protection and enforcement. The Government in a bid to fulfil its central responsibility for protecting human rights established five independent Commissions supporting Democracy, whose objectives include support and entrenchment of human rights in accordance with Chapter 12 of the Constitution. These Independent Commissions include the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, the Zimbabwe Media Commission, and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

I am impressed that ZHRC in line with its constitutional mandate of promoting, protecting and enforcing human rights and involvement in dealing with cases of maladministration is ensuring access to administrative justice. I am pleased to note that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has taken an active and lead role in hosting national commemorations of International Human Rights Day since 2013 which is getting bigger and bigger. I sincerely thank the Midlands Province and all other stakeholders, particularly in Gweru, for hosting this event and working collaboratively with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to ensure the success of the event.

This year’s theme, “Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today.” gives everyone the duty and obligation to protect and promote the rights of others. This is in line with Section 44 of the Constitution which accords the duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration of Rights to the State, every person (including juristic persons) and every institution and agency of government. We must stand up for the voiceless in our societies and defend their rights. These include refugees, persons with disabilities, women, children, indigenous minority groups, or anyone else at risk of discrimination, violence or other violation of his or her fundamental rights and freedoms. Let us start by ensuring that one knows that they have the same rights as everyone else.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us remember that International Human Rights Day falls on the last day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence which started on the 25th of November and ending today which is International Human Rights Day. Let me emphasise that Government places high importance on these commemorative days and recognition they offer to all of us in reflecting on how we can unite in standing up for the human rights and freedoms of the marginalized, including people in remote rural areas of our country.

I wish you all a wonderful day.

I thank You.

Keynote Address by the Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development; Honourable Sithembiso G.G. Nyoni (Guest of Honour) at the International Human Rights Day Commemorations at Mkoba Stadium, Gweru – 10 December, 2016