Global Policy Forum

Chinamasa Attacks Civil Society


By Tererai Karimakwenda

SW Radio Africa
June 22, 2006

The minister for Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa made a blistering attack on Zimbabwe's civil society at the inauguration of the new United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Wednesday. He also misled the Council about Zimbabwe's appalling human rights record. In a speech that portrayed the government as a victim of non-governmental (NGO) activity, Chinamasa accused developed countries of interfering with internal affairs and supporting regime change through opposition parties.

Chinamasa said he hoped the Council will make it its business to depoliticise the pursuit of human rights issues. He claimed civic groups operating in Zimbabwe are set up and financed by developed countries as instruments of their foreign policy." He went on to say: "Their objectives include destabilisation and interference with the evolution of our political processes, undermining our sovereignty, creating and sustaining opposition groups that have no local support base, and promoting disaffection and hostility among the local population against their popularly elected government."

Chinamasa also urged the new council to come up with a framework "...which prohibits direct funding of local NGOs operating in the field of human rights and governance issues by developed countries and their agencies." Fambai Ngirande, spokesman for the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), which represents NGOs in Zimbabwe, told us Chinamasa had made unsubstantiated claims. He said Zimbabweans had become heavily dependent on assistance from NGOs because the government has failed to provide the basic needs of its citizens. He added that NGOs were under no duress from the west or the international community to interfere in political affairs.

Ngirande said there is no money in Zimbabwe and unemployment is over 80% with extremely high inflation rates. He said the private sector has no money and neither does the government. For this reason, he said, NGOs have had to partner with international organisations to bring food aid, medical assistance, education and other services. It is widely accepted that without NGO assistance, Zimbabwe and most of Africa would be in dire straits.

The justice minister concluded his speech by assuring the council that Zimbabwe would respect the human rights of all its people as provided for in the Charter of The United Nations and of our Constitution. The Council did not know that at the time Chinamasa was giving this assurance, police were disrupting the funeral of MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai's father in Buhera using the repressive Public Order and Security Act. And WOZA women arrested in Harare on World Refugee Day on Tuesday for demonstrating peacefully against unaffordable school fees were forced to pay admission of guilt fines in order to buy their freedom from police custody.

The new UN Human Rights Council was created to replace the old Human Rights Commission which had come under increasing criticism for its failure to act on many violations of human rights law. The Commission's voting procedures allowed countries like China and others to block action against consistent violators like the Mugabe regime and the Sudanese government. It is hoped the new Human Rights Council will be much more effective, but Chinamasa's speech is not a good start.

More Information on NGOs
More Information on NGOs and States


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.