The National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO) – a youth umbrella body for youth organizations, is bemoaning the shrinking of civic space in the country.
While acknowledging the steps being taken by the Government of Zimbabwe through the recently announced National Lockdown meant to contain the spread of Corona Virus – which has had devastating effects on the people, recent developments where the state is trampling upon the rights of citizens irked the organisation.
“We note with concern the continued shrinking of civic space in Zimbabwe, in form of arrests, detention, harassment of youth activists and student leaders. The continued detention of Student Leader Allan Moyo remains a cause for concern in a constitutionally guided democratic country. The lack of involvement, lack of dialogue between the government and Youth CSOs on the strategy to contain the virus need urgent attention. In recently announced regulations CSOs are not considered as an Essential Service; a setback for human rights and accountability,” NAYO said in a statement.
NAYO’s sentiments are guided by the dictates of the Zimbabwe Constitution, in particular, the Bill of Rights and the African Youth Charter, Article 4 on Freedom of expression which calls on the Member States to, ‘ensure that every young person is assured the right to express his or her ideas and opinions freely in all matters’ and Article 5 on Freedom to Association which calls on the Member States to ‘ensure that every young person has the right to free association and freedom of peaceful in conformity of the law.
The youths representative body said it was perturbed by the continued criminalization of free speech and expression of dissent, detention without trial, rise on pending Courts cases within the Courts of Zimbabwe, and the suppression of peaceful protests.
As a result, NAYO is making an urgent plea and call to the Government of Zimbabwe and all relevant institutions and agencies of Government to:
Consider Stakeholder Approach to uphold the Bill of Rights and create Enabling Environment for youth, citizens, CSOs, and people living in Zimbabwe.
Uphold the dictates of the African Youth Charter to which Zimbabwe is party, which calls on Member states to respect and uphold freedoms to expression and peaceful assembly for youth;
Stop the arrest of youth leaders, activists, and the immediate release of the young people currently detained in prisons
Take appropriate steps to engage CSOs as an essential sector in fighting Covid-19.
Give urgent attention to the livelihoods of young people who have lost their sources of income through Covid-19 restrictions.