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Zimbabwe: Call for SADC Action

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jul 1, 2007 (070701)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Over 100 human rights groups, mainly in Africa, have urged South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and other SADC leaders to put human rights at the center of any mediation efforts on the Zimbabwe crisis. The appeal was initiated by Amnesty International, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights,

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the text of the statement and excerpts from the transcript of a discussion on SW Radio Africa of the current situation in Zimbabwe, The full transcript, along with much additional background information and commentary, is available on http://www.kubatana.net

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zimbabwe, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/zimbabwe.php .

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Announcement

AfricaFocus Bulletin will be taking a break from publication for the remainder of July, for vacation and for work on a book forthcoming from Africa World Press in October 2007. No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000, is edited by William Minter, Gail Hovey, and Charles Cobb, Jr. More details, including information on advance orders, will be announced in August or September.

The AfricaFocus website (http://www.africafocus.org) remains open, and is regularly updated with news from a wide variety of sources. Country pages (http://www.africafocus.org/country/countries.php) have news and background organized by country. The new AfricaFocus Plus searches AfricaFocus plus seven other recommended partner sites (http://www.africafocus.org/plus/search1.php).

And topic pages provide direct access to AfricaFocus Bulletins on specific themes:
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Human rights issues must be at the centre of any dialogue between the government of Zimbabwe and the opposition political parties

Joint statement

Amnesty International, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

29 June 2007

http://www.kubatana.net

Three months after the extra-ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), which took place on 29 March 2007 in Dar-es Salaam, the United Republic of Tanzania, a myriad of international human rights and civil society organisations have come together to call on SADC leaders to urge the government of Zimbabwe to end human rights violations in Zimbabwe. In particular, we call on President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, in his capacity as the SADC-appointed mediator, to ensure that human rights issues are prioritised in any settlement to be agreed by the government of Zimbabwe and the political opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Attacks on members of the political opposition and civil society organisations are taking place in the context of a severely declining economy as well as an increasingly repressive environment in Zimbabwe, in which the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are regularly suppressed by the government and incidents of state-sponsored organised violence and torture are increasing.

President Mbeki was mandated to facilitate a dialogue between the government of Zimbabwe and the MDC, following the torture and ill-treatment of a number of leaders and members of the MDC and other civil society organisations by the Zimbabwe Republic Police on 11 March 2007. The MDC and human rights activists were arrested for attempting to attend a prayer meeting organised to protest a three month ban of rallies and demonstrations imposed by police in parts of Harare under section 27 of the Public Order and Security Act.

We are concerned that since the SADC meeting, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and organised violence have been on the increase in Zimbabwe.

At least 30 political detainees arrested on 28 March 2007, including MDC Member of Parliament Paul Madzore and MDC Director of Elections Dennis Murira, spent over two months in custody awaiting trial, and 18 have since had the charges dropped.

The detainees' lawyers, Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni, were also arrested outside the High Court on 4 May 2007 after submitting court papers on behalf of Amos Musekiwa, one of the political detainees. The lawyers were only released on bail on 7 May.

On 8 May police in Harare beat lawyers who had gathered outside the High Court to protest the unlawful arrest of Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni. Police forced some of the lawyers including Beatrice Mtetwa, President of the Zimbabwe Law Society, into a police truck before driving to a secluded area and reportedly beating them. They were then released.

The Zimbabwean government has justified arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment as a response to attacks on police by alleged opposition supporters. As with all alleged criminal acts, we urge the government of Zimbabwe to immediately and impartially investigate these attacks, respecting the rights of the suspected perpetrators, including the right to a fair trial. However, incidents of violence by protestors by no means justify excessive use of force, torture or ill-treatment by the police.

We are also concerned that two years after an estimated 700,000 people lost their home or livelihood or both when the government embarked on a programme of mass forced evictions codenamed Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order), the government has failed to provide an effective remedy to the victims. Most of the victims are still in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The SADC initiative should not forget these victims of human rights violations.

These human rights concerns have been well documented, including in the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights' report of its 2002 fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe. However, the government of Zimbabwe has failed to implement key recommendations contained in the African Commission's report and its resolution adopted at the 38th Ordinary Session in November 2005.

The human rights situation in Zimbabwe requires immediate action by SADC leaders. President Mbeki and other leaders of SADC should send a clear and unequivocal signal to the government of Zimbabwe that they will not remain silent about the violations of human rights perpetrated in Zimbabwe and should ensure that the government of Zimbabwe takes immediate steps to respect and protect human rights of all people in Zimbabwe, including ending the use of excessive force, torture and ill-treatment. Central to resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe is the need to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable and that the victims have access to justice. Any attempt to circumvent the needs of victims will not bring a lasting solution.

In their mediation efforts, President Mbeki and the other member states of SADC should not be limited to finding a short-term political solution between the government of Zimbabwe and the MDC, but should aim to find a long-term solution to the human rights crisis in Zimbabwe. This can be achieved by consulting widely among civil society organisations in Zimbabwe and ensuring that all stakeholders are able to contribute to the process.

Through their mediation efforts, we urge President Mbeki and the other member states of SADC to ensure the following:

  • all parties involved in the mediation process agree to clear timelines and bench marks, including the respect and protection of human rights for all, an end to organised violence, and fulfilment of Zimbabwe's obligations under the African Union and UN human rights frameworks.
  • the government of Zimbabwe immediately ends its campaign of intimidation and harassment of human rights activists, civil society leaders, members of the political opposition parties and other critics of government policies;
  • the government of Zimbabwe fully respects the right to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and repeal or amend its national laws to bring them into line with regional and international human rights standards, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Zimbabwe is a state party;
  • the government of Zimbabwe takes immediate steps to end torture, other ill-treatment and serious human rights violations by the police and other security forces. Relevant authorities in Zimbabwe should investigate and hold the perpetrators of violations of human rights accountable;
  • all those who are currently homeless as a result of the mass forced evictions have access to humanitarian assistance, including emergency shelter, food, water and medical care. The victims of forced evictions should be given an effective remedy.


Transcript of 'Hot Seat' interview with Jenni Williams, Chenjerai Hove and Stan Mukasa

Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa

June 12, 2007

http://swradioafrica.com/pages/hotseat130607.htm

Audio interview can be heard on SW Radio Africa 's Hot Seat programme (12 June 07). Comments and feedback can be emailed to violet@swradioafrica.com. Broadcasts are between 7:00 and 9:00 pm Zimbabwe time on shortwave; in the 25m band 11775kHz, 11810kHz, 12035kHz and in the 60m band 4880kHz. Also via the internet at http://www.swradioafrica.com

Transcript reproduced on http://www.kubatana.net

[Excerpts only]

Violet Gonda: The discussion on the programme Hot Seat this week centres on the issue of talks and elections [in Zimbabwe] and whether or not there are alternatives to talks and elections. My guests on the programme are Jenni Williams, the co-ordinator of the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimbabwean poet and writer Chenjerai Hove and Professor Stanford Mukasa, a political commentator. Welcome on the programme Hot Seat.

All: Thank you

Violet: I'm going to start with Jenni on the issue of the talks and also the elections that are scheduled for next year. What is the feeling on the ground on these two issues?

Jenni Williams: On the issue of an election, you know, as far as we're concerned as members of WOZA and MOZA, and, just as ordinary Zimbabweans, to have an election in a climate where you are starving, where 4000 people are dying every day, is totally irrelevant. And, right now I don't know whether anyone is even pre-occupied or thinking or even looking forward to the day of any election and even thinking they will leave their homes for that day. So an election and even the discourse about an election is pretty irrelevant. We are just looking at how to survive today. On the issue of talks we have a little bit of a slightly different reaction because the situation; the cost of living, everything is just tough ...

Let me spend a little bit of today thinking about how we can put pressure to make this Mbeki initiative at least become something close to being genuine ...

Violet: And you were arrested in Bulawayo last week together with 7 other women and just on Monday about 150 WOZA women were arrested after they handed themselves in at the Filabusi Police Station. Now, your group has been holding demonstrations, or trying to, for inclusion in these talks. Are any of these demonstrations having any impact on the talks?

Jenni Williams: Well, I don't know if we actually want to be included in the talks. I think our role is more to project what should be on the agenda of the talks, and that is more what we are pre-occupied with. We do not think that sitting right directly there will be time well spent because our role is a watchdog role. ...

Violet : And what should be on the agenda?

Jenni Williams : It should be dealing with the socio economic crisis. We have our ten steps that we have recommended and in each of those ten steps, if they are progressively done, we will be able to have a better climate and then we will be interested in talking about an election. Until we get those ten steps addressed and until we have a better climate, until all the unjust laws have been repealed and until we have done an audit of the civil servants and disbanded the Law and Order, we won't be able to have a climate where a truly free and fair election with one man/one woman one vote can be conducted and give us a now independent and fresh start for Zimbabweans. ...

Violet : And, Mr Hove, what are your views on these talks?

Chenjerai Hove: I think the talks should be all-inclusive. By that I mean that it is no longer possible for political parties to deal with the situation in Zimbabwe . It is important that all interested parties should be included in these talks so that they don't seem to be pushing party political agendas. They have to be inclusive; everybody: WOZA, MDC, the constitutional movement, the youth, Lawyers for Human Rights, they must be included in these talks if they are going to be substantial talks.

Violet: But the Opposition has said that these other stakeholders would be included in these talks and this is just a preliminary stage.

Chenjerai Hove: Yes, yes, it's better to include everybody in the preliminary stage because you have to draft the agenda, you have to get all the items on the table which are coming from everybody and then you go on. Otherwise you can't take people or some other people on half way through the journey. So I think it's important that we realise that this is a national crisis which is political, social, economic and cultural. It must include everybody who has a stake in what we want to do for our country. ...

Violet: And also, Mr Hove, what about the situation on the ground right now that is worsening, so while people are talking about talks, Mugabe is carrying on with what he's always done for seven years especially, you know beating up opponents, arresting opponents. Now, shouldn't that be a precondition to talks, you know to stop the violence, to stop the arrests?

Chenjerai Hove: The violence definitely has to stop. I think Mr Mbeki, if he wants to be seen as a serious negotiator; facilitator, he should make sure that he clearly tells President Mugabe that this has to stop. You can't negotiate while you are killing the other negotiating partners, you are torturing them, people are being disappeared and being people are being imprisoned. So that violence has to stop and that negotiation table must include a lot of basic changes. The laws which have been made to safeguard Mugabe's power; ZANU PF's power; must be on the table and those have to be removed. Electoral laws, POSA; all those laws just make it impossible to have no violence in the country. So, if those are put aside and negotiations are done on that basis; a genuine basis. Because, if you look at what happened to Ian Smith, for example, it was one South African President who said 'if you don't negotiate with the blacks in Zimbabwe, the consequences are going to be too ghastly to contemplate and this is exactly what Mbeki must tell Mugabe.

Violet: And now, Professor Mukasa, you know there are those who believe that Mugabe is using delaying tactics and that the MDC seems to be following his agenda and that it's becoming like a daily pilgrimage for the Opposition going to South Africa . Now, are there an alternative to talks and is the initiative becoming a waste of time?

Professor Mukasa : Yes, of course there are alternatives to talks but those alternatives are aimed at bringing pressure. Ultimately, any conflict is resolved at a conference table. The problem with the present talks is that Mugabe's agenda is likely to prevail simply because MDC does not have any bargaining power at all. You see, if you go to a conference table and you have nothing on your side to show that you are also strong, you are going to be swallowed up by the other person's agenda. ...

What MDC needs to do now is to link up with the rest of the civil society and make it clear to Mugabe that if he does not accede to the basic demands; demands like just social equities, you know, the basic necessities that Jenni talked about; the need to bring about free and fair elections, the need to bring back the Rule of Law, the need to bring back true democracy and the kinds of economic reforms that are needed to make Zimbabweans move forward and make Zimbabweans feel there is something for them in this post-colonial era. Unless MDC can marshal that power and strength; that power base, they are going as junior partners to the conference table with Mugabe. And, Mugabe can postpone the talks as much as he wants, and even if he were to come to the conference table, he is not likely to take those talks seriously because he has got so much confidence in this own power base.

And, one thing that must be recognised is that, the agenda for talks; according to Mugabe; is not to save Zimbabwe , but to save himself; to save himself from the kinds of prosecutions that could arise. Mugabe has lost interest in the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe , Mugabe has no vested interest in bringing back free and fair elections. He knows what's going to happen to him. Free and fair elections are going to be a death knell to him politically and in terms of his career and his party. And, he knows what lies ahead for him if the Rule of Law is ever to return to Zimbabwe . So, he has a power base, namely the military, and because he does not believe that the talks as envisaged by the MDC and Mbeki and the International Community will work to his interest. He is going to hold out. He has survived for seven years now and he feels he can hold out indefinitely. So, what is needed right now, I wouldn't talk about alternatives to talks, I would talk about developing a power base in order to become a real force at the talks or to force Mugabe to move away from his agenda of self survival to the agenda for the survival of the nation.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org