Monday, October 26, 2020

SADC mixed messages on Zimbabwe serves to embolden the junta against human rights activists

The general mood was supposed to be ecstatic this year with SADC turning 40 years.

Yet we see a dark cloud hovering all over the region, a result of events unfolding in Zimbabwe.

The general feeling among human rights activities is that SADC is moving backward – and in big steps.

The very reasons for Zimbabwe being a member of SADC seem lost on the government down there but also on other regional governments inside SADC.

The current SADC dispute mechanism, for lack of a better classification is too weak because it fails to take sides with citizens above the state.

Zimbabwe is a sovereign nation.

By joining SADC it has accepted that it shall behave in a certain way so befitting of a member of the community of nations.

SADC should not leave room for second guessing on what it thinks of member countries that are causing human rights violations.

SADC, should never under any circumstances kowtow to intimidation. If that happens, the organization will lose relevance – a process that has already started, but which, thankfully remains reversible.

On the case of Zimbabwe, there is need for institutional response by SADC on recent incidents of civil society crackdown by the state.

SADC has clear rules on how it engages with member states.

But those rules were created for members states that are well behaved and also honouring their membership obligations especially in so far as they entail to own citizens.

But the Government of Zimbabwe has been behaving like a gangster state.

The moment a government behaves like a rogue state, then it immediately forfeits its rights to be treated as a responsible government.

Peer Review is an arrangement that SADC member states should embrace and even encourage.

Given the scale of abuses in Zimbabwe, it is unpardonable that to this day no formal statement has come from SADC clarifying the regional bloc’s formal position on Zimbabwe.

As a result, questions remain.

SADC has to clearly settle its position on the abuse of human rights by a member government.

The people of Zimbabwe are right to feel alone and abandoned.

Like any of the region’s citizens, they had expectations that SADC would stand firm with them in times of need.

They instead saw an organization that is equivocal even on such elementary tenets like human rights.

SADC should at all times put the safety and security of citizens first.

Protecting member regimes and propping them to hide abuses should never be on the agenda.

A failure by SADC to engage with Zimbabwe on behalf of itself as a regional body but more on behalf of the citizens of Zimbabwe is an unpardonable omission and grave breach.

SADC should stand for expanding the frontiers of economic freedom, political freedom and also human rights – at individual and also collective levels.

The current loose shape of relations between SADC member states works to undermine the interests of SADC citizens.

Member states should have clearly defined relations, with citizen being the center of it all.

SADC has just turned 40 years. That on its own should be a big deal.

But citizens find themselves flapping around with no point of reference to be used to point out their befits from SADC over the years.

It was much better in the early years.

With time the situation has deteriorated. It is wrong for the bloc to use the might of combined governments to works against citizens, in this instance the citizens of Zimbabwe.

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