Sadc urged to isolate Mugabe

The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) — which meets for its annual summit beginning on Saturday in Luanda, Angola — should isolate President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF for their intransigence to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that gave birth to the inclusive government in February 2009.

Addressing the seventh Sadc Civil Society Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, the regional Council of Non-Governmental Organisations executive director Boichoko Ditlhake said a number of countries, including Zimbabwe, were experiencing major crises of democratic governance, and that “increasing levels of unemployment, underemployment and extreme poverty, are directly associated with the manner in which our countries are being adversely governed”.

Ditlhake said civil society needed to “urgently ensure that Sadc guarantees free and fair elections in Zimbabwe and those intransigent parties to the GPA are isolated and called to account”.

The forum identified Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Malawi, Swaziland and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as hotspots in Southern Africa.
Zimbabwe has been in political crisis since 2000.

Sadc in September 2008 facilitated the GPA between Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the two MDC formations, which resulted five months later in the formation of a unity government.

President Mugabe remained in his post while his strongest political opponent Morgan Tsvangirai of the main MDC party became Prime Minister.

Mugabe has been accused by the two MDC formations of refusing to fully implement the GPA. Several outstanding issues in the pact — among them the appointment of provincial governors, re-appointment of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and the hiring of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana — remain unresolved.

Ditlhake said President Mugabe and Zanu PF should be censured by Sadc if a democratic election is to be held in the country.

In an indirect reference to Mugabe, Ditlhake said:

“We cannot continue to blame external forces (entirely) for the crises which are internally and wilfully generated by some of those leaders and parties we have socially contracted to lead us.” President Mugabe blames Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis on the United States, Britain and their Western allies. He accuses them of interfering in the country’s internal affairs and imposition of embargoes to cripple the economy.

“For a number of internal and external factors, most, if not all, of the countries and in particular the people of the region have not benefited from the national liberation to the extent they should have and could have benefited,” Ditlhake said.

“Externally, the Cold War drew the independent countries in the region into allegiances and alliances which were not in the best interest of the region, but in the interest of the global powers.”

He added:

“Internally, national conflicts like in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, among others, absorbed the capacities and the energies of the people and prevented the liberation of the productive forces of the countries (from being) utilised for an improvement of the quality of life and of the freedoms of the people. It remains ideologically and politically worrying and unacceptable that the majority of our people in some of our countries in the region have a lower living standard and less freedom than under colonial rule.”

Speaking during the Hotspots Tracker roundtable, Zimbabwe Election Support Network director Rindai Chipfunda-Vava said Zimbabwe needed to embark on national healing, craft a new constitution, clean the voters’ roll, reform the security sector and embark on legislative and media reforms before the country could hold elections.

“Without these reforms, elections will not be free and fair,” she said. “We see a situation where Zimbabwe will regress to before the inclusive government. We see a situation where we will have further negotiations to form another inclusive government because the elections would be disputed.”

Participants to the roundtable roundly condemned the Zimbabwean government for failing to liberalise the public media and stop hate speech against President Mugabe and Zanu PF’s opponents.

Turning to regional matters, the civil society forum said the immediate task of the region’s civil society would be to ensure a thorough investigation by Sadc and the African Union Peace and Security Council into the killing of 19 protesters in Malawi last month, and get perpetrators to account.

Police in Malawi reportedly opened fire against civilians who were protesting against acute fuel shortages in the country and calling for the devaluation of the local currency, among other concerns.

“Swaziland must be put on the agenda of Sadc and that appropriate sanctions are affected,” the council of the Southern African civil society said. “Sadc and African Union must assist DRC to ensure legitimate elections and that it does not slip back into civil war. Sadc must expedite implementation and finalisation of the peace process in Madagascar.”

The DRC is expected to go to the polls before year-end, but reports from Kinshasa are that the political playing field has not been levelled and is skewed in favour of the incumbent President Joseph Kabila. Madagascar was suspended from the 15-member Sadc after a military coup.

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