Thursday, May 6, 2021

Civil society condemns xenophobia and political instability in SADC

The civil society forum of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has declared solidarity with the people of Swaziland, Lesotho and Zimbabwe; three countries in the region that have experienced instability and political turmoil over the last year. In its final declaration of the 11th Civil Society Forum, released on Monday, the civil society expressed concern about ongoing instability, democratic short-comings and security threats in Lesotho and Swaziland, as well as ongoing socio-political challenges in Zimbabwe. The 11th Civil Society Forum was held in Gaborone, Botswana on the sidelines of the SADC summit.

The civil society urged the SADC to ensure creation of an enabling and peaceful environment that will usher in participatory and democratic processes towards a peaceful and secure Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. It further called on SADC to expedite commencement and conclusion of the commission established to investigate human rights violations in the country. In their joint communiqu├® at the end of the SADC summit recently, member states re-affirmed the approved terms of reference of the commission of inquiry and strongly urged the government of Lesotho to gazette them as approved. Political pundits viewed this as a slap in the face for Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who had objected to the terms of reference, preferring for his country to continue with suspended court martial proceedings against more than 50 soldiers who stand accused of supporting slain army chief, Maaparankoe Mahao. SADC leaders appointed an independent commission of inquiry to investigate Mahao’s death after he was shot dead by soldiers in June. The commission, which will be headed by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana, will also investigate allegations by the government of a mutiny plot in the army, as well as simmering tension between the police and the military.

In its final declaration, the civil society forum also slammed the SADC for its silence and indifference on Swaziland’s refusal to implement political reforms, saying it was a cause for concern that Swaziland remains the only country in the region which has banned political parties and criminalised citizen political activity.

“We are further concerned about the continued persecution of political and human rights activists by the Swazi state security. We call upon the government of Swaziland to cease all forms of repression and embark on inclusive national political dialogue to seek home-grown solutions to the persisting political crisis in the country,” said the civil society.

On Zimbabwe, the SADC civil society expressed solidarity with Zimbabwean workers, who are facing massive retrenchments following a Supreme Court ruling providing for termination of employment by giving three months’ notice without paying out severance packages. The civil society said the new law will undermine efforts to attain decent employment and sustainable livelihoods. The civil society forum also condemned xenophobic attacks on migrants in the SADC region, especially in South Africa, saying they will have a negative impact on regional integration. It challenged all SADC member states to publicly condemn xenophobic attacks, ratify and implement the Protocol on Facilitation of Movement of Persons and to adopt and implement the SADC Labour Migration Policy Framework. 

The recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa pitted Botswana’s President Khama and his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma against Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe. During a visit to Botswana immediately after the xenophobic attacks, Mugabe said South Africa needs another liberation to resolve its economic imbalance, which he said was the main cause of xenophobia. However, Zuma and Khama defended South Africa, challenging SADC member states to instead fix their broken economies to curb the rising tide of immigration.

Zuma said xenophobia was not South Africa’s problem alone, arguing that other countries have also contributed as they failed to take care of their citizens. Khama later joined the fray, saying the influx of foreigners into South Africa was a result of economic mismanagement by some African leaders.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper