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Human Rights Watch Urges SADC to Probe Rights Violations in Southern Africa

  • Tatenda Gumbo

Human Rights Watch has written to SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao urging the grouping to ensure respect for human rights in Malawi, Swaziland and Angola as well as in Zimbabwe

Pressure is mounting on the Southern African Development Community to rein in states which have been accused of human rights abuses, including Zimbabwe, this in the run-up to the regional body’s summit in Angola next week.

Zimbabwe will be high on the agenda as mediator and South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to table a report on the situation in Harare which his facilitation team is now finalizing in cooperation with the co-governing political parties in Zimbabwe.

Human Rights Watch has written to SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao urging the grouping to ensure respect for human rights in Malawi, Swaziland and Angola as well as in Zimbabwe. Angola is to assume the SADC chair at the forthcoming summit.

Human Rights Watch implored SADC to “heed the complaints of southern Africans, rather than to silence them with bullets.”

The rights watchdog group said particular attention must be paid to conditions in Zimbabwe and Angola, both expected to hold elections next year.

It said resources must be mobilized to monitor those elections, warning of the potential for political violence. Human Rights Watch said it had documented "numerous incidents of politically motivated violence by the dominant [Zimbabwean] party, ZANU-PF."

Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Tiseke Kasambala told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that regional leaders need to be firm with Harare.

Elsewhere, a coalition of religious groups, unions and non-governmental organizations said SADC must put some teeth in its resolutions.

The Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa said it is deeply worried by the growing number of problem cases in the region pointing to the same nations in the Human Rights Watch statement, plus the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The civic groups said SADC leaders have failed to ensure the rule of law throughout the region, and are calling for urgent attention by the regional heads of state.

Observers say that beyond pressure from civil society organizations on rights, Zimbabwe must make practical changes, in particular drafting road-map to elections.

Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said non-governmental organizations can press SADC for change, but obtaining the political "deliverables" is another matter.

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