The silence by the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) on the on-going human rights abuses in Zimbabwe has drawn widespread condemnation from critics and neutrals alike.
While many were expecting the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe to feature prominently at the 32nd ordinary session of the AU held in Addis Ababa from February 10 to 13, the former Organisation of African Union completely ignored the crisis.
As if to rub salt into the wound, Sadc chairperson Hage Geingob issued a provocative statement on Monday, blaming Non-Governmental Organisations and perceived external forces of seeking to destabilise Zimbabwe.
This followed the killing of 12 protesters by the army and police last month after a three-day stay-away organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) turned violent.
Nearly 80 people sustained serious gunshot wounds.
In the aftermath of the protests, witnesses spoke of serious human rights abuses by members of the security forces.
The world, including the United Nations, also condemned the sad events in Zimbabwe and called on the authorities in Harare to use restraint is responding to protests.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government blames a third force for stirring the demonstrations, coordinated by the ZCTU to protest massive hikes in fuel prices.
As if reading from a script prepared by officials in Harare, Geingob also called for the removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by western nations, claiming these were negatively affecting the economy.
He said as Sadc they stood with the people of Zimbabwe and the government.
Yesterday, analysts reacted angrily to Sadc’s statement saying it sanitises the brutal crackdown on activists and opposition leaders by Mnangagwa’s government.
Professor of World Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the United Kingdom Stephen Chan said Sadc, as an inter-governmental organisation, has a general rule not to criticise member governments in public.
“Having said that, this statement is disappointing in its failure to recognise underlying reasons for citizen discontent and the extent of economic mismanagement for the last 20 years: In such situations, a statement would normally at least begin with the words, ‘member governments noted with concern…’ One only hopes that more meaningful words were spoken behind closed doors, as the meltdown in Zimbabwe makes it the most poorly performing of all the Sadc states, and this in itself has a negative effect on Sadc’s mission of economic cooperation and integration,” Chan said.
United Kingdom-based Kent University law lecturer Alex Magaisa said Sadc was listening to the voice of a perpetrator and based its judgement on a single voice.
“…It did not even seek the views of other stakeholders. No wonder some citizens long lost hope in Sadc. It’s like a trade union where Sadc simply represents the interests of its member.
“Sadc grabs and elevates Zanu-PF’s cheap propaganda. No word on the egregious human rights abuses by the security services and Zanu-PF sponsored youths, even as they confess. Villains cast as victims, victims as villains. And they expect the world to take them seriously?” Magaisa queried on his Twitter account.
Political analyst Admire Mare said Sadc’s statement is a true reflection of what parties born out of liberation movements view the Zimbabwe situation.
He said while the statement is a clear solidarity posture with Zanu-PF, it postpones the resolution of the Zimbabwe issue to another day in future.
“These statements are not new at all we have seen more like these ones during the (former president Robert) Mugabe era. One is left wondering if regional bodies like Sadc are fit for purpose or urgently need surgical reforms like the UN. It’s clearly a checkmate on Nelson Chamisa and the MDC Alliance in terms of regional diplomacy,” Mare said.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Sadc is clearly out of touch with the concerns of the people in Zimbabwe and those of the people in southern Africa.
Mukundu said the issues affecting and dragging down Zimbabwe are well known, including a massive violation of human rights and extra-judicial killings of citizens, beatings, breaking into homes by the security service, soldiers and police.
He said the regional grouping is losing its purpose and was only seeking to protect one of its own rather than dealing with the fundamental issues affecting the people.
MDC official David Coltart said Geingob’s statement was disgraceful.
Writing on his Twitter page, Coltart said, “…the only absolute truth in it (the statement) was that it followed a briefing from (Mr) Mnangagwa. The rest of it reads more like a Zanu-PF propaganda sheet than an objective view of #Zimbabwe. The claim that they stand by the people is an insult”.
Political analyst Piers Pigou also queried Sadc’s genuineness on resolving the Zimbabwe issue.
“Must Sadc remain a perennial disappointment on Zimbabwe? Geingob echoing unsubstantiated rumour and allegation. Why must Sadc insist on shaming itself? (And where’s the final Sadc election report on July 2018 elections … and for that matter the final report on the 2013 elections),” Pigou said on Facebook.
Exiled former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo said Sadc was missing the point and had misrepresented the situation in Zimbabwe.
“@Sadc_News As always, #Sadc does not get it. This statement is gross misrepresentations of the grave situation in Zimbabwe; apparently based on Mnangagwa’s self-indulgent brief that flies in the face of tragic facts that are speaking for themselves on the ground!” he wrote on Twitter.