By Byron Mutingwende
Scores of people, particularly human rights activists, have welcomed the opening of the new headquarters of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) offices.
Promise Mkwananzi, the Spokesperson of Tajamuka – a protest movement calling for transparency and accountability from the leaders of the country and the resignation of President Mugabe ostensibly for failing to execute his mandate, said the new office would offer ZLHR an opportunity to represent pro-democracy activists who are always in running battles with the courts and other law enforcement agents like the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
“ZLHR is the most important non-governmental human rights organisation with a very critical role of defending human rights activists. We are glad that they now have their own place which will accommodate all the lawyers dedicated to our cause in a free environment,” Mkwananzi said.
Mkwananzi’s statements were echoed by Linda Masarira, one of the proponents of the Occupy Africa Unit Square Movement who was vocal and active in the “shut down Zimbabwe” protests which saw her incarcerated for a long time in the infamous Chikurubi Maximum Prison for standing for her rights and calling for the respect of human rights by the government.
The sentiments came as on 9 December 2016, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) officially opened and relocated to its new national headquarters, located at the corner of Second Street and Baines Avenue (Stand 1755) in Harare.
Officially opening the building, the Danish Charge de Affairs at the Royal Danish Embassy in Zimbabwe, Signe Winding Albjerg said that the building would be the most visible aspect of the DANIDA partnership with ZLHR. She hailed ZLHR for providing a legal safety net for human rights defenders.
The headquarters is named “Kodzero-Amalungelo House,” combining the Shona and Ndebele words for “House of Rights”.
As part of the ZLHR and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) Access to Justice Programme, Denmark provided funding for refurbishing the four-storey block, purchased by ZLHR.
The building provides state of the art facilities, accommodating the ZLHR’s offices, a training institute and two floors of leasable space for smaller law firms as well as human rights and law-based CSOs.
Kodzero-Amalungelo House is expected to become a human rights hub, providing clients with access to a diverse range of legal services in a secure environment. In the long term, the hub will improve inter- organizational collaboration as the human rights and law-based CSOs will create synergies in their service delivery, while reducing transport costs for clients.
The training institute features a library, lecture theatres, tutorial rooms and a fully equipped moot court. The institute will provide education and research on issues relating to human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism in Zimbabwe and the region.
Kodzero-Amalungelo House will contribute to strengthening the human rights culture in Zimbabwe as citizens, CSOs, businesses and state actors will access legal information and services from the premises.
ZLHR is a law-based, human rights and membership driven organization, established in 1996. It works to promote a culture of respect for human rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. Its programmes include legal support services, human rights and constitutional education as well as research and advocacy for justice sector reforms.
Some of the organization’s key impacts include the protection of human rights defenders, scrutinizing the justice delivery system and maintaining space for civic activism in the country.