Zimbabwe NGOs demand action from SADC

Civil society organizations in Zimbabwe say the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should deploy peace-keeping monitors in that country to prevent state-sponsored violence and intimidation and to guarantee peaceful transfer of power to the eventual winner of the elections.
The civil society organizations have made the recommendations ahead of a key meeting by the SADC organ for defense in Livingstone, Zambia, where Zimbabwe and Madagascar are on the agenda.
The meeting takes place this Thursday and will be attended by South Africa’ Jacob Zuma, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Mozambique’s leader Armando Guebuza and host Rupiah Banda who will chair the meeting.
But the Zimbabwe civil society organizations under the ‘Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition’ banner feel that SADC should do more and act fast.
The civil society organizations, who will be in Livingstone to follow the meeting, say SADC should urgently intervene in the Zimbabwe crisis to pave way for democratic elections that are without violence or intimidation.
In an email statement to the Zambian Watchdog, Dewa Mavhinga – Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator said:
“We reiterate that Zimbabwe is not ready for elections in 2011 and that on her own, without direct assistance from SADC and the AU, Zimbabwe cannot deliver a credible election.
“We state unequivocally that the conditions obtaining in Zimbabwe such as widespread state-sponsored violence, partisan application of the law, increased deployment of soldiers across the country openly intimidating citizens and campaigning for ZANU-PF and increased arrests and harassment of rights activists and MDC leaders all confirm that state institutions remain unreformed and unrepentant.”
Mavhinga said, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is therefore demanding SADC to take five critical steps to create an environment conducive to holding free and fair elections where violence and intimidation play no part
The steps are to push Zimbabwe to have a new, democratic constitution which includes critical electoral reforms such as an updated and accurate voters’ roll, guarantees for media freedoms, equal access by all political parties to state media and repeal of all legislation that hinders free political activity.
The other step is ensure that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, charged with elections management, is fully independent, adequately resourced, professional, and has direct technical support from the SADC Electoral Commissions Forum to enable it to fully discharge its mandate.
The third step is that, in the context of its on-going mediation in the political conflict in Zimbabwe, SADC must independently examine and certify that the environment is conducive to holding free and fair elections before an election date can be set, and SADC must supervise them to ensure full compliance with SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
The fourth step is that, together with the AU and the UN, deploy peace-keeping monitors at least three months ahead of elections to prevent state-sponsored violence and intimidation and to guarantee peaceful transfer of power to the eventual winner of the elections. The peace-keeping monitors should remain on the ground a further three months after elections have been held.
Mavhinga said that the fifth step should be to ensure that the elections are robustly monitored and observed by local, regional and international groups.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is a broad based civil society network of over 72 active members comprising churches, women’s groups, social movements, residents associations, labour unions, human rights lawyers, and health professionals. It was formed in August of 2001; to focus on democracy, human rights, good governance and sustainable development issues – working at locally, regionally and internationally.

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