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Distinguished Guest of Honour and Minister Of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development Honourable Sithembiso Nyoni.

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Midlands Province, Honourable Jason Machaya

The Deputy Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Dr Ellen Sithole and Fellow Commissioners from the ZHRC and other sister Commissions.

Honourable Ministers here present

Provincial Administrator for Midlands Province, Mr. Maronge

The Acting Executive Secretary of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Mr Erick Vengesai Mukutiri and other officers of the Secretariat

Honourable Members of Parliament here present

Honourable Members of the Judiciary

Hon. Deputy Ministers here present

Permanent Secretaries

Vice Chancellors of Universities

Our Development and Donor Partners

Traditional Leaders here present

Directors and Officers of Government Line Ministries

Directors and Members of Civil Society and Faith Based Organisations here present

Secretariat of the ZHRC and other Commissions here present,

Ward Councillors of the City of Gweru

Members of the Media Fraternity

Members of the entertainment family

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

All protocol observed

It is a great honour for me to address you on behalf of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission on this very important day as we commemorate the International Human Rights (ZHRC) Day whose theme this year is, ‘Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today! The Commission is proud to be hosting these commemorations in partnership with Government line Ministries, Civil Society, our esteemed Development Partners and many other key stakeholders. This partnership showcases collective responsibility to promotion, protection and enforcing of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of our people at all levels of society. We are celebrating the UN General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR). This day was declared International Human Rights Day in 1950 by Resolution 423 (v) of the General Assembly and has since then been commemorated as such each successive year.

This year’s commemoration is coming at the backdrop of the declaration by the AU of 2016 as the year of Africa Year of Human Rights with special emphasis on the rights of women. Ladies and gentlemen, we feel very honoured to have  the Honourable Sithembiso G.G. Nyoni, Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Developmentwhodespite her extremely busy schedule accepted to be our guest of honour at this important occasion. You will agree with me that her long and steadfast commitment to the fulfilment of economic rights for the people of Zimbabwe, in particular, the marginalised and vulnerable groups in our society qualifies her her as one of the nation’s distinguished promoters of human rights. She is supporting our work all the way in her ministerial portfolio.

As you may be aware of, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is one of the Chapter 12 Independent Commissions that are established in terms of Section 232 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013. The objectives of Independent Commissions are outlined in section 233 of the Constitution and one of them which is significant to today’s gathering is: to support and entrench human rights and democracy.[1]The mandate of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is to protect, promote and enforce fundamental human rights and freedoms. As the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) for the country the ZHRC was accredited with the Global Alliance for National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) in May 2016 with an A status rating which confirms the Commission’s credibility as a human rights institution.

In fact the International Human Rights Day theme for this year 2016 ‘Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today! appropriately sums up the work of the ZHRC. The Commission has a dual mandate of promoting and protecting human rights as well as dealing with administrative justice complaints following the taking over of the Public Protector function in 2013 at the promulgation of the people driven Constitution. The Commission inherited 558 files from the Public Protector Office, when a handover was effected on 7th August 2014. The Commission has successfully dealt with almost half of these cases. Most recently, on the 28th of November 2016 the Commission was accepted as a Voting member of the International Ombudsman Institute which now gives it full participation on the international human rights dialogue and interrogation platform.

In its first year of full operationalization, commencing in June 2014, the Commission received 103 complaints but that figure had significantly rose to 482 complaints in 2015 and this year so far we have handled 635 cases. Ladies and Gentlemen, your Commission is at the forefront of investigating alleged human rights violations where ever they occur. Your Commission has also publicly spoken out stating its position and submitting recommendations on various unfolding events that impact on human rights in the country in fulfilment of its constitutional mandate to protect and promote human rights.

Pursuant to its mandate to monitor conditions in prisons mental health institutions and other places of detention as provided for under Sections 243 (1) (c) and 243 (1) (k) of Constitution, the ZHRC carried out monitoring and inspection visits to over 26 prisons out of a total of 46 Ingutsheni, Ngomahuru and Parirenyatwa Annex Psychiatric Hospitals. The Commission is in the process of conducting stakeholder engagements to ensure the findings and recommendations arising from these monitoring visits are implemented. The Commission also continues to actively participate in major human rights related events such as monitoring of by-elections and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Let us all adhere to this year’s theme so that everyone canStand Up for Someone’s Rights Today and everyday. To be able to do that people have to know their rights. The Commission has therefore started rolling out information dissemination and public education activities  with a thrust to enhance the visibility of the Commission and promote awareness of human rights and fundamental freedoms in line with Section 243 (1) (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The strategies adopted include the development and consistent distribution of Information, Communication and Education (ICE) Materials that included brochures on the mandate and work of the Commission, the simplified booklets on the Declaration of Rights translated into vernacular languages, the use of the website and commemorations of key human rights days. We are aware other stakeholders are also playing their part. We are very happy that the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) is among us today to launch the Declaration of Rights in Venda and Shangani. More and more work still needs to be done to enhance the visibility of the Commission and promote awareness of human rights and the Constitution amongst our people, particularly targeting those in the rural and remote communities who are among the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to mention that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has since inception encountered numerous challenges which have impacted negatively on effective implementation of its Constitutional mandate. These include financial and other resource constraints, limited institutional capacity and the need to decentralize its operations. Despite these challenges, the Commission has continued to strengthen its capacity in key areas of its functions and operations, working closely with partners in Government as well as with Development Donor Partners, Civil Society and related communities.

In line with the recommendations arising from the Universal Periodic Review, ZHRC calls upon the government to speed up both the domestication of ratified treaties and the process of ratifying outstanding treaties such asConvention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and its optional Protocol, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance etc. The ZHRC in addition calls upon the government to expedite the alignment of all laws to the Constitution in order to facilitate observance of the rule of law and enhance support for democracy and human rights.

May I at this juncture, extend my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Midlands Province, Honourable Jason Machaya and all Government stakeholders in the Midlands Province, Gweru City Council and Civil Society, the residents of Gweru and in particular the Mkoba community for your hospitality and for hosting of the 2016 International Human Rights Day commemorations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I conclude by calling upon all of us gathered here today to reflect on how as individuals and communities wherever we may be can play positive roles in standing up for each other’s rights to make our beautiful country and the global village, a joy to live in.

I wish you all an enjoyable and entertainment galore commemorative day.

I thank you.

[1] See S233 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013 for more objectives of Independent Commissions.

Remarks by the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission; Commissioner Elasto Hilarious Mugwadi at the International Human Rights Day Commemorations: Mkoba Stadium, Gweru, 10 December 2016