BY SHARON BUWERIMWE
ZIMBABWE’S readmission to the Commonwealth might face hurdles due to continued human rights abuses in the country, political analysts said yesterday.
This comes as the Commonwealth members are in Kigali, Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), where Zimbabwe’s bid for re-admission into the grouping will be discussed.
On Monday, while addressing mourners at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, during burial of Major-General (Rtd) Sydney Bhebhe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa accused the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) of stage-managing acts of political violence to stall Zimbabwe’s readmission into Commonwealth club.
The late former President Robert Mugabe withdrew the southern African country from the Commonwealth in 2003 in protest after the group extended sanctions on Zimbabwe following a chaotic and bloody land reform programme.
To rejoin, Zimbabwe must comply with the fundamental values set out in the Commonwealth charter, among them democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom of expression.
The country has recorded gross human rights violations, with the ruling Zanu PF and government being accused of perpetuating a culture of violence, abductions and killings.
Yesterday, British House of Lords Member of Parliament Jonathan Oates said the human rights violations will soil Mnangagwa’s image.
“Does Mnangagwa have any idea how damaging these images are to Zimbabwe’s reputation around the world? Why are remand prisoners who pose no flight risk being put in leg irons? Come to think of it why are they under arrest at all?” Oates tweeted.
Oates’ remarks were triggered by videos of incarcerated CCC MPs Job Sikhala (Zengeza West) and Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North) being taken to court in leg irons. They are accused of inciting violence in Nyatsime after the murder of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali.
Political analysts said chances of Zimbabwe’s readmission to the Commonwealth were slim.
“At some point, the prospects of readmission looked bright, but somehow things, especially our politics, and the violence by both State and non-State actors is threatening to come back. Again, the government seems not ready to allow full expression of democratic rights by the opposition, civil society and even workers. It is difficult to see the readmission happening. If it happens, it will be conditional,” analyst Methuseli Moyo said.
Another political analyst Vivid Gwede said: “Zimbabwe’s readmission to the Commonwealth has been made conditional on specific reform initiatives that the country’s leadership needs to undertake. Among these benchmarks is the issue of respect for human rights and basic freedoms as well as democratic expression, which unfortunately remains unsatisfactory in light of recent developments.”
Effie Ncube, another political expert, said: “There is no basis at all for them to apply for readmission due to all those violations of human rights and there is no basis for CHOGM to admit them back. They still have to mend things that are not going right in the country. Zimbabwe is not behaving as expected as a member of the Commonwealth as it is entirely in violation of its principles. There is no justification for them to be readmitted.”
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