By Everson Mushava/Moses Matenga
PRESSURE continues to mount on President Emmerson Mnangagwa, with civic society organisations (CSOs) in the region yesterday imploring the African Union (AU) and the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) to sanction the Zimbabwe government to force it to respect human rights.
In a communiqué issued after a Sadc civil society organisations meeting hosted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN), the civic organisations challenged AU to undertake a fact-finding mission to the troubled southern African country.
The meeting, held ahead of the 40th Sadc Ordinary Summit, was to deliberate on the human rights situation in the country.
The Human Rights Institute of South Africa (South Africa), Center for Democracy and Development (Mozambique), DITSHWANELO-Botswana Centre for Human Rights (Botswana), Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition (Malawi) and Chapter One Foundation (Zambia) joined hands with the NGO Forum and the SAHRDN.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of its worst political and economic crises in a decade, with doctors and nurses at public health institutions on strike, shortages of medicines and foreign currency while wages are failing to keep up with rampaging inflation which was recorded at 737,26% in June.
Mnangagwa blames the opposition, Western sanctions, droughts and the COVID-19 pandemic for the problems and last month deployed security forces to block planned opposition protests over corruption and the worsening economic hardships.
Critics say he was exploiting the coronavirus crisis as cover to crush the opposition, which says many of its members were abducted and tortured ahead of the planned protests while over 30 went into hiding.
The #ZimbabweanLivesMatter hashtag, which has been trending triggered by an angry reaction to rights abuses in the country by South African opposition leaders, last week forced South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa to deploy special envoys to the country.
“Undertake a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe, noting with concern the Government of Zimbabwe’s disregard of the South African envoys on 10 August 2020,” part of the CSOs demands to the AU read.
“Hold Zimbabwe to account by demanding adherence to the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and sanction the government of Zimbabwe to adhere to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”
The CSOs said there should be a political cost to the government’s failure to respect the African Union’s standards of democratic practice and called for genuine broad-based and all-inclusive national dialogue to end the crisis.
The rights lobby groups also challenged Sadc to hold the Zimbabwean government to account, demanding an end to Mnangagwa’s impunity.
“Sadc must raise the political and economic cost of impunity and anti-democratic behaviour, adopt a clear and decisive plan of action to address Zimbabwe’s governance deficits in a sustainable and inclusive manner,” the communique read.
The CSOs also want Sadc to push for genuine all-stakeholders dialogue to end the Zimbabwe crisis, not dialogue through the “convenient” Political Actors Dialogue.
The arrest of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume, the lobby groups said, showed the clear lack of respect for rule of law by the Mnangagwa administration.
But Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa insisted there was no crisis in the country and that there was, therefore, no justification of foreign intervention “under established international treaties”.
She accused the opposition MDC Alliance of igniting instability.
“It is common knowledge that there is no Zimbabwean issue before the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Neither is there one such issue before the Sadc Summit. Definitely, there is no such issue before the continental body, the African Union.”
She added: “South African domestic politics can be allowed to be spirited.
“Even then neither comments from some figures in the ruling party nor irate remarks from its opposition ranks should be taken as the basis of creating perceptions or attributions of crisis in other nations.”