SADC Chair, Zimbabwe, should not preside over democratic decline in the region

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) notes Zimbabwe’s assumption of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairmanship, congratulates Botswana on being elected deputy chair, and South Africa, the new chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.  These positions are critical in advancing regional economic development, ensuring democratic transition in Zimbabwe and Swaziland as well as restoration of constitutional order in Lesotho. Our concern is that the region is likely to suffer democratic deficit under the leadership of President Robert Mugabe, who is SADC chair until August 2015.

We commend the SADC Troika for its quick response to the attempted military coup in Lesotho. While we condemn the attempt by sections of the military in Lesotho to unseat a constitutionally elected government, we welcome the commitment by leaders of the coalition government of Lesotho to find a lasting solution to their challenges.

We are grateful to the South African government for introducing a new permit regime specifically targeting Zimbabwean migrants living in South Africa. Whilst we welcome the new dispensation, we would like to remind the South African government that Zimbabwe’s political and economic crises are far from resolved.

We strongly feel that SADC still has a role to play in Zimbabwe, especially in demanding urgent democratic reforms as provided for in the country’s new Constitution that came into force on 22 August 2013.

We note, with deep concern, Zimbabwe’s absolute failure to improve the human rights situation in the country as characterised by continuing unlawful farm invasions, police assaults and harassment of journalists and opposition activists, and continued economic decline. Overt factionalism and instability within the ruling ZANU-PF party threatens national security given the involvement of security forces in political issues regarding succession to president Robert Mugabe in the party and in government.

We demand guarantees of orderly and constitutional succession in Zimbabwe and decisive action on the land question, starting with a comprehensive land audit, which is long over due. Zimbabwe must immediately cease farm invasions, respect property rights and observe the rule of law in accordance with the constitution.

While gender and women’s rights concerns are not usually seen in the ambit of democracy discourse, we submit that they also indicate the degree to which the governments of the SADC region individually and collectively are really committed to the principle of democracy. Several instruments, beginning with constitutions, guarantee gender equality but unfortunately, in reality, the women and girls in the region are still to enjoy socio-economic and political equality. We call upon the regional leaders to show commitment to their constitutions by translating the frameworks into real programmes to ensure inclusion of women, men, boys and girls at all levels.

We strongly condemn last month’s indiscriminate assault and arrest, by police, of displaced people at Chingwizi holding camp in southern Zimbabwe. We stand in solidarity with the displaced, who are victims of the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam floods, and share in their just demands for prompt payment of compensation and resettlement on adequate land on which they will have secure land tenure rights.

We are not impressed by president Mugabe’s recent begging trip to China, where ‘mega deals’ aimed at reviving the economy, were reportedly sealed. In our view, the current state of the economy demands immediate remedial action and not acts of mortgaging the country to the Chinese. The government of Zimbabwe’s failure to send a clear message on its economic policies and the resultant policy inconsistencies, for example indigenization and economic empowerment policies, has adversely affected both investor confidence and access to funds from international funding institutions.

We call on SADC leaders to demonstrate commitment to the rule of law and respect for human rights by immediately resuscitating the SADC Tribunal with a clear legal framework that will ensure individual access for all SADC citizens with human rights complaints and mechanisms for enforcement and compliance by all member states.

SADC leaders should press for the immediate and unconditional release from prison of Swaziland human rights defenders, Thulani Maseko and Bheki Makhubu and other political prisoners incarcerated  by the Swazi kingdom  and that Swaziland be suspended – with immediate effect – from SADC until there is restoration of democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law in that country. We also note with sadness the arrest of PUDEMO President Mario Masuku for addressing the Workers Day celebrations. He was arrested to together with SWAYOCO’s Secretary General Maxwell Dlamini and they are charged under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. Political parties remain banned in Swaziland since 1973. The only workers’ federation was also deregistered by the government and its activities are not allowed. We call for democracy in Swaziland and the respect for human rights. SADC should press for human rights improvement across the region, particularly those countries with an unflattering human rights record such as Angola, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Issued by: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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