Monday, August 9, 2010

Civil society demands action from SADC leaders

By Alex Bell
06 August 2010

Civil society on Friday demanded that leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) take action to prevent state-sponsored violence during the next elections in Zimbabwe.
The call by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition comes ahead of the SADC Summit in Namibia from August 15 – 17, where Zimbabwe’s current political stalemate is set to be debated. The situation fell off the agenda at last month’s African Union (AU) summit in Uganda, despite the stalemate that has blocked any real change in the country.

All the signs are in place for a presidential election to be called next year and ZANU PF has already started electioneering, amid efforts to gather public opinion on a new constitution. But concern is already being expressed that there are no systems in place to prevent a repeat of the 2008 election violence that left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced.

The Crisis Coalition is now calling upon SADC and AU leaders, as guarantors of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement (GPA), to put concrete plans in place to prevent such violence. This includes ensuring that Zimbabwe fully complies with SADC Principles and Guidelines regarding elections, as well as recognising the right of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to vote. The Coalition also wants SADC and AU leaders to “facilitate technical support to the newly appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission by more experienced regional electoral bodies, such as the South African Electoral Commission.”
Additionally the Coalition wants Zimbabwe barred from taking up a position in the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security for the duration of the on-going mediation process in Zimbabwe “to preserve the independence of the Organ.”
“Even in Zimbabwe, a player for one side cannot pull on a referee jersey,” the Crisis Coalition said in a statement.

A team from SADC is expected in Zimbabwe in the next two weeks, to review the progress of the unity government. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said over the weekend that the SADC team was expected to consider the ongoing violations of the Global Political Agreement by ZANU PF. It’s also believed he will raise the issue of ZANU PF’s propaganda jingles being played by the state broadcaster, as another critical outstanding issue.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who is the regional bloc’s official mediator in the Zimbabwe political crisis, is expected to brief the summit on the problems bedeviling the unity government. Zuma’s envoy, Mac Maharaj, returned to Zimbabwe this week, reportedly with the aim of “resolving some longstanding and new contentious issues,” in the fragile coalition.

Maharaj was set to meet with negotiators from ZANU PF and both formations of the MDC, although once again no details of these meetings have been made available to the media. The envoy is likely to produce a report that will indicate the next course of action. One of the likely scenarios is that President Zuma will visit Zimbabwe before the SADC summit, to try and encourage more progress.

Meanwhile the SADC Lawyers Association has urged regional heads of state to condemn Zimbabwe's snubbing of a ruling, ordering it to compensate farmers who had their land taken from them during Robert Mugabe’s violent land invasion programme.

"Continued silence on the actions of the Zimbabwean authorities will only help to play in the hands of sceptics who doubt the ability of the regional leaders to deal effectively with the government of Zimbabwe and its leaders," a statement read on Friday.

The group said that when the leaders gather at the forthcoming SADC summit they should take a principled stand on the matter, by condemning the Zimbabwe government. The SADC Tribunal in 2008 ruled that the land grab exercise was unlawful and ordered that the government to protect farmers and their rights to their land. But the government has ignored the order, as well as warnings that it is in contempt of court by doing so.

The association said that a warning to Zimbabwe would be in the interest of regional cohesion and integrity.

SW Radio Africa news - The Independent Voice of Zimbabwe

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