Statement on State of Human Rights in the SADC Region

Citizens in Action Southern Africa (CAISA) is deeply concerned about the deteriorating state of human rights in parts of the region in recent weeks. Of special concern are the situations prevailing in Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. These four countries are facing three unique situations which however have a common thread of human rights violations passing through them.

The Republic of South Africa has been faced with a spate of violent demonstrations which have been triggered by the arrest and incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma. The protests which were initially localized in the province of KwaZulu Natal have since spread across the country in particular into the commercial hub of Gauteng province. President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for calm amid intensifying burning down of property and looting of businesses. He has further deployed the army to support police in quelling the protests. We call on the Government of South Africa to exercise restraint and to uphold human rights in its efforts to end protests. We further call on the all parties including government to open platforms for dialogue to allow citizens to actively register their grievances. There can be no sustainable solution without citizens engagement. The situation is getting tense hour by hour such that it may result in super spreading of COVID19 amid the surge in COVID19 cases in South Africa at the moment.

In Mozambique the ongoing jihadist insurgency has resulted in hundreds of deaths and displacement of millions. The security forces of Mozambique are clearly overwhelmed by the insurgency which has resulted in SADC mobilising for military deployment into the region. We however call on SADC forces and all forces active in Mozambique to respect and uphold the human rights of citizens in Cabo Delgado. There have been reports of excessive use of force by government soldiers operating in that region which undermines fundamental freedoms and rights. Any peace process must be centred on respecting citizens’ rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Kingdom of Eswatini has been facing increasing waves of pro-democracy protests which have been met by brute force from the King Mswati III monarchy. Internet has been switched off and citizens are being attacked by the military without much publicity to the rest of the world. A SADC delegation deployed so far has not shown any results in respect of upholding fundamental freedoms and rights of citizens peacefully demanding freedom and democracy. We call on SADC to play a critical role in reigning on King Mswati III and the government of Eswatini to stop human rights violations in the country. In addition, we call on the Government of Zambia to open space for free and fair campaigns as that nation heads for pools in August. While the COVID-19 pandemic is real, it must never be used as an excuse to undermine the fundamental rights of citizens.

CAISA is also worried about the closure of operating space for civil society in Zimbabwe where authorities are making illegal demands regarding the operations of NGOs and civil society organisations. We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to respect and uphold Constitutionally guaranteed rights to assembly and freedom of expression which form the bedrock of civil society work.

CIASA strongly implore to SADC to call for total restraint and protection of lives and property of citizens of South Africa. We acknowledge that the SADC body has an obligation to support its member states during difficult situations as it is the case in South Africa. CIASA is deeply concerned about the riots and security brutality on civilians including loss of lives and destruction of property. As CIASA we are committed to peaceful and democratic processes that protect human rights of the citizens and remain open for assisting in dialogues.

As CAISA we believe that the various situations in SADC countries should now put on the forefront dialogue on the post-colonial social contract. We believe that at the centre of all these challenges is lack of genuine democracy, increasing poverty and widening inequality which must be urgently addressed. Citizens must be involved in policies which are aimed at transforming their communities and rescuing them from poverty. It is our considered view that no one should be left behind in this quest.

Source: CIAISA

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