Strengthening locus standi in human rights litigation in Zimbabwe: an analysis of the provisions in the new Zimbabwean constitution

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    Zimbabweans have been both victims of and witnesses to serious human rights violations over the years. Though there is wide agreement and speculation that the state and its agencies are the perpetrators of these atrocities, they have largely remained unprosecuted and unpunished. Such impunity is inter alia the result of ineffective law enforcement mechanisms and institutions as well as the lack of capacity and legal knowledge of victims to approach the courts and seek redress. These factors negatively affected the protection of human rights and access to justice in Zimbabwe. Although the Lancaster House Constitution contained a Declaration of Rights, its enforcement mechanisms, particularly those relating to locus standi (legal standing), posed a great challenge to human rights litigation in Zimbabwe. This is so because the Lancaster House Constitution adopted the traditional common law approach to standing. Under this approach it was required that an individual must have a "personal, direct or substantial interest" in a matter in order to have standing. The Lancaster House Constitution failed to recognise the importance of broader rules of standing, which would accommodate public interest litigation, specifically for protecting human rights. Contrary to this, the new Constitution of Zimbabwe (2013) broadens the rules of standing in order to enhance access to the courts. This paper analyses the new approach to standing under the new constitutional dispensation in Zimbabwe. To this end, the discussion commences with an elucidation of the concept of locus standi and its link to access to justice. This is followed by an analysis of locus standi under the Lancaster House Constitution. Since the new approach in Zimbabwe is greatly informed by the South African approach to locus standi, a brief analysis of standing in South Africa is made. The paper concludes with a discussion of the approach to locus standi under the new constitution with a view to demonstrating how the new approach is likely to impact on the right of access to justice and human rights protection.