Human Rights Watch has called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the donor community to press Harare for democratic reforms ahead of possible polls this year.
In a new report looking at the political situation in Zimbabwe, the leading rights group said SADC as the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement that saw the birth of the unity government, has the power to push Harare to implement much needed reforms before fresh elections.
In the report titled: “Race Against Time: The Need for Legal and Institutional Reforms Ahead of Zimbabwe’s Elections,” Human Rights Watch says the inclusive government has, among other things, failed to reform the justice system, which it says remains extremely partisan toward Zanu PF.
The global advocacy group said the unity government has also failed to hold some people accountable for past rights abuses, including those who committed violence during the 2008 general elections.
Human Rights Watch warned that widespread violence and rights violations would re-occur if changes are not implemented.
Dewa Mavhinga, the group’s senior researcher for Southern Africa told the VOA that SADC and the donor community should show Zimbabwe that failure to respect the will of the people in the forthcoming elections would attract serious consequences such as sanctions.
Mavhinga said: “SADC has said the right things on the need for reforms but it must now match that with clear action that must be taken in the event of non-implementation because there is really no movement and SADC has really not pushed Zimbabwe.”
He added, “In dealing with Madagascar, SADC suspended the country from participating in its processes, as a way of showing its displeasure.”
The researcher urged the donor community to link its re-engagement with Zimbabwe with conditions that are tied to critical reforms.