On Saturday 21st February, Zimbabweans congregated in Newcastle for a ROHR Vigil aimed at pressurising the Zimbabwe Government to respect the Human Rights Charter it signed with both the African Union and the SADC states. The Vigil was organised by the ROHR Zimbabwe Newcastle branch’s chairman Mr Prince White. This was the first vigil to be carried out by ROHR Zimbabwe.
The MP for Newcastle Central Mr Jim Cousins and several ROHR Zimbabwe senior members including the founder and President Mr Ephraim Tapa and the United Kingdom and Ireland Coordinator Mr Paradzai Mapfumo attended the vigil. Members congregated at Charles Grey Square. Drums were brought and people started singing and dancing. The MP joined in the vigil and in between songs people gave speeches. In his speech Mr Cousins said he was very impressed by the turnout and he expressed his support for the Zimbabwean Community and confirmed that everybody was saddened by the deteriorating standards of human rights in Zimbabwe. Mr Tapa emphasised that Zimbabweans should sacrifice a single day in a week to pressure the Zimbabwean government to honour human rights. MDC and Zanu PF have formed a coalition government and such conditions are not going to help the situation in Zimbabwe. A one party state will never honour its people’s rights.
Zimbabwe’s economy has almost collapsed, there is no rule of law and people continue to suffer because of a lack of transparency and reliability within the government. Basic human rights such as the right to life, prohibition of torture, the right to liberty and security, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, prohibition of discrimination and the right to respect family life are not addressed. People continue to suffer from diseases such as cholera and AIDS but the government continues to suppress people. Over a quarter of the population is thought to be living with HIV and the government only declared a state of emergency after several months of denial that the cholera crisis, which has seen over 4000 people die.
ROHR Zimbabwe will hold vigils to expose and challenge the Zimbabwe government on issues pertaining to governance of the country and to address human rights violations. The ROHR Newcastle branch chairman Mr White thanked everybody who attended the event especially members of the community who joined to dance and sing with us. He also expressed his gratitude to security officers and Newcastle police officers who made sure that event went ahead without any problems.