‘The army keeps Zim on course’ – Zanu-PF

2012-05-29 07:55

Harsh criticism of Zimbabwe’s oppressive legislation by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has outraged Zanu-PF justice minister Patrick Chinamasa.

Pillay, during a press conference on Friday, spoke strongly about the need for violence-free elections, a free media and non-partisan state agencies, all resulting from the review of the country’s laws.

“Human rights defenders, journalists and political activists have been arrested and charged on a regular basis. Even councillors and members of parliament from the MDC-T party have been arrested and charged under Section 33 of the Criminal Code – which outlaws insulting or undermining the authority of the president. I believe this legislation should be repealed.

“Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act is also seriously misused by prosecutors who employ it to block release after bail has been granted, and are not required to provide any reason for their action. I believe this legislation should be amended to protect against its frequent misuse for political purposes, especially during the run-up to elections,” she said.

“The corrosive effect of these laws, and of other forms of past and current – albeit lower level – harassment and intimidation of political party activists, including restrictions on their right to freedom of assembly, is deeply worrying.”

The role of the military, a salient part of Zimbabwe’s politics, also came under scrutiny.

“I have heard much concern expressed about the role of the military, including a recent statement by one of the country’s most senior army officers suggesting the army should throw its weight behind one political party – when for any country to be called a democracy, its army must observe strict political neutrality,” Pillay said.

Her assessment was not welcomed by Zanu-PF, which tried to stage manage her visit by barring civic groupings from meeting her.

Chinamasa called his own press conference where he took a swipe at the UN Human rights commissioner.

In the conference he also instructed UN officials accompanying Pillay to be removed from the venue.

Chinamasa defended the role the military played in Zimbabwean politics.

“The army people were liberators. You cannot deny them the voice to keep this country on course, so that there is justification for those who died for the country and those who lie in unmarked graves. They died for the political independence and sovereignty of the country, so anything that is going to diminish what they fought for ... the army should have a voice and unashamedly so,” Chinamasa said.

Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said Chinamasa’s actions could easily spark a diplomatic row that would further alienate Zimbabwe from progressing to a free and development oriented society.

“That was not necessary. Because Pillay said something that he (Chinamasa) did not like does not mean that he has to act like that. There is a need to separate emotion from professional conduct. That is where Zanu-PF misses the point.

“The UN team was invited by the government and the government should take constructive criticism and forge ahead, try to stop violence, confine the army to the barracks and state defence,” he said.

Meanwhile Pillay has asked Western countries to suspend sanctions against Zimbabwe so that people “could entirely focus on economic issues that need to be addressed,” Sapa-AFP reported.

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