Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations Position Ahead of the 40th SADC Heads of State and Governments Summit

WE, the Civil society organizations in Zimbabwe, under the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CIZC), a coalition of more than 300 organisations drawn from the church, labour, women, youth, students and other interest groups would like to bring to your attention the worrying state of affairs in our country and Mozambique. We continue to value the contribution of the region for the important role in steering mediation processes that led to the signing of the Global Political Agreement and the Government of National Unity between 2007 and 2013. We welcome the latest efforts by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa in appointing a special envoy comprised of Sydney Mufamadi and Baleka Mbete as the South African government attempts to intervene in the unfolding crisis in our country. We take note of the African Union (AU) statement (its contents and conclusions) on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, and we continue to call for the AU to take a firm position on Zimbabwe given the matters at hand are not new.

We also take this opportunity to congratulate the people of Malawi for electing a new president Lazarus Chakwera. The Malawi experience is a lesson to other countries in the region that when the rule of law is respected and people express their will it leads to stable democratic political systems.

On Zimbabwe and Mozambique, we, therefore, wish to highlight key issues with regards to the state of affairs in Zimbabwe.

NOTING that Zimbabwe is at the brink of collapse socially, economically and politically due to a cocktail of challenges emanating from bad governance, corruption, inconsistent policies, a poor human rights record and the closure of democratic space.

CONCERNED about the rise of insurgents, who since October 2017 have been operating in the Northern province of Mozambique and their recent capture of a key port in Cabo Delgado province, on Wednesday.

ACKNOWLEDGING AND APPRECIATING the efforts by the Extraordinary Organ Troika Summit plus Mozambique held in Harare on the 19th of May 2020 to support the Government of Mozambique in fighting against the terrorists and armed groups in some districts of Cabo Delgado.

APPRECIATING the importance and role of SADC in solving the Zimbabwean crisis resulting in the signing of the Global Political Agreement in 2008.

AWARE AND COGNISANT of the unfolding situation in Zimbabwe and the volatile situation in Mozambique which might escalate into a regional security crisis as refugees flee from the political and economic crises to neighbouring countries.

We, therefore, seek to point out and make known the following key issues:

Political Economy

Zimbabwe’s hope for a new dispensation of democratization and increased respect for the rule of law and human rights have evaporated quickly, replaced by a harsh reality of repression, widespread abuses, a collapsed economy and rising impoverishment of the majority of Zimbabweans due to inadequate social protection mechanisms. In the aftermath of the military coup and the elections that followed in 2018, Zimbabwe has seen growing dejection among citizens as the economy continues to plunge deeper in crisis.

The false transition and coup assisted change of power within the ruling party has worsened the situation with glaring evidence of shrinking democratic space as evidenced by a heavy-handed state response to dissent. Civil society, which has been providing the alternative voice beyond the opposition political society, has not been spared with most of its leaders being victimised, arrested, abducted and tortured on trumped-up charges.

Zimbabwe’s rotten door transition has also bred plummeting economic and social services for citizens which have seen the general population further impoverished with cuts in public spending and the resurgence of hyperinflation following the reintroduction of the Zimbabwe Dollar without meeting the macroeconomic fundamentals.

The national situation remains a very complex case whose dynamics remain extremely fluid and thus always needing interventions that stand ready to be reviewed and adapt to unexpected changes. Though, the country’s unresolved crises epitomized by increased political repression, a descent into economic collapse, and despite hopes of re-engagement, there is growing international isolation whose impact is well beyond the country’s borders. Moreso, even the citizens who had previously warmed up to the change of power albeit with hanging suspicion have seen their hopes eroded overnight and realising that the false transition has created worse devils than the previous.

Constitutionalism

That Constitutionalism, which was a key outcome of the reform process spearheaded through SADC intervention in Zimbabwe between 2009 and 2013, has all but stalled, with the government

attempting to amend the constitution which is a product of the tireless efforts by citizens to develop and entrench democratic efforts in Zimbabwe after two decades of crisis will amongst others erode and wipe all the democratic gains made on the 16th of March 2013 historic referendum. What makes this act abominable is its ascertained result which is to entrench hegemony and consolidate the power of the incumbent. Regardless of the outcome, the initial attempts by the ruling party to amend the Constitution reflect on the desires of the incumbent to consolidate power such that several other attempts to mutilate the Constitution will be expected.

Clampdown on Activists and Journalists

With the crisis in the country deepening, especially evidenced by corrupt activities of the elite, the government through its state apparatus has been growing less tolerant of dissent. Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition political party leader Jacob Ngarivhume have been arrested on trumped-up charges of attempting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government. The pre and post-July 31 activities of the state is evidence of a government that is that agitated. The abrupt arrest of CSO leaders, foiled abductions and actual abductions of activists all summed up to a restless state. The recent statements by the Minister of Information and Publicity Monica Mutsvangwa attacking the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) pastoral letter on the human rights situation and corruption expose government lack of tolerance.

Building up from the July 31 protests, neighbouring countries, especially solidarity partners, opposition political parties, worker representatives and celebrities in South Africa initiated a #Zimbabwelivesmatter online campaign that quickly gathered momentum and grew from just a regional to a global campaign that attracted the elite, business community, embassies and other governments taking turns to isolate Zimbabwe. In response, South Africa did the usual and issued a statement highlighting that it will be sending envoys to Zimbabwe to most probably understand the situation on the ground and most likely pave way for talks between the concerned parties.

The growing isolation of Zimbabwe comes at a time when the state, instead of addressing the multi-faceted crisis facing the country, the government has chosen to declare war against citizens calling it to account. The media, particularly the state-controlled media continues to be partial while perpetuating divisions in society and brazenly attacking civil society as plotting to subvert Zimbabwe’s constitutional democracy. Senior government officials and ZANU PF stalwarts have been issuing out statements threatening ordinary citizens who wish to exercise their constitutional rights to protest as well as labelling CSOs as terrorist funded organisations. With such statements and based on Zimbabwe’s lack of tolerance to CSOs, activists and CSO leaders, the security sector’s firm hand against activists and CSOs are expected.

SADC Early Warning Systems

Given the boiling political temperatures in Zimbabwe that have the potential to disintegrate the region, we believe the SADC Summit should put a concrete mechanism to dictate negative events that can cause disability in the region. This mechanism will monitor threats i.e. human rights abuses, climate change among other things that endanger the people of the region. The region should not wait for a crisis for it to intervene, i.e. Zimbabwe is a pending civil unrest case. We therefore urgently call for SADC to convene a Special Troika on Zimbabwe without delay to come up with a framework for dialogue.

With such a development and armed with lessons from the 2008/9 dialogue processes led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, civil society in Zimbabwe believes that SADC has a role to play in the dialogue process including other key stakeholders such as the business community, labour representatives and the church to allow for an all-inclusive process. We, therefore, wish to categorically state that we will not support any mediation efforts based on the assumption that the Zimbabwe crisis will be solved by reforming ZANU PF.

As CSOs we believe that the Zimbabwean crisis implies addressing the concerns of the ordinary citizens who have had to bear the brutal effects of an economic meltdown stemming from a constitutional and legitimacy crisis.

The government needs to honour its social protection obligations and this is achievable through wide consultations hence the need for an inclusive process.

On our part as CSOs, we believe the following must be set as minimum demands for the national dialogue process based on wider consultations with our membership around the country.

Key Demands

On the process:

1) It is our conviction that the national dialogue process must involve all stakeholders and a national visioning process that has civil society, government, political parties, business, religious groups and labour unions among other critical stakeholders. The dialogue process should produce a timed roadmap to the demilitarisation of civilian political processes and the restoration of normalcy by focusing on key political, economic and social reforms. In this regard, we call for FULL CONSULTATION of all stakeholders rather than cosmetic processes.

On the Economy:

2) It is imperative to arrest the economic downturn in Zimbabwe based on a clear reform roadmap and implementation of pro-poor and inclusive economic policies. Efforts at economic transformation, stabilisation and growth should be aimed at achieving inclusive sustainable economic growth and development.

On Constitutionalism, Rule of Law, Human Rights and Human Security:

3) The Government of Zimbabwe must uphold and guarantee citizens’ rights as enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution and other regional and international human rights treaties and statutes. Full implementation of the country’s constitution is equally important in promoting democracy in Zimbabwe.

4) The Government of Zimbabwe must respect the fundamental right of access to information, freedom of expression as well as freedom of association.

5) There is a need to immediately operationalise a comprehensive programme on national healing, reconciliation and nation-building that will depolarise society and entrench the respect for diversity, inclusion and tolerance in all facets of life.

6) The army must desist from partisan politics and confine themselves to the barracks. There is an imperative need to de-militarise the Zimbabwean state.

7) There is need for non-interference into the work of institutions that support democracy. This again calls for full implementation and respect of the country’s constitution. Also, the government must not be seen to be criminalising the work of civic society organisations.

8) CiZC holds the firm view that implementation of electoral reforms is critical as a way of doing away with disputed elections that often result in a legitimacy crisis which comes with negative impacts on democracy and economic development

On Mozambique

We, therefore, make an urgent call to the SADC Heads of State Summit to come up with an urgent concrete plan to help the people of Mozambique fight the terrorists and armed groups in some districts of Cabo Delgado Province as this has the potential to cause regional instability.

Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition