Zim breaks Sadc rules

MAPUTO - Mozambique civil society groups have said Zimbabwe could be breaking Sadc protocols on elections if the country runs elections by July 31 as ruled by the Constitutional Court.

They said if the country manages to achieve such a feat, she will enter the Guinness Book of Records for preparing polls in two months.

Mozambique has been preparing for their November local government polls for the past 12 months, and civil society groups meeting here ahead of the special Sadc summit on Zimbabwe (which has been moved from Maputo to South Africa next week), said it was imperative that the Zimbabwe poll complies with the Grand Baiee protocol — a set of minimum electoral standards agreed to by the regional bloc in the Mauritius capital in 2004.

“As it is, Zimbabwe is in violation of Sadc protocols,” said Senor Rozario of Joint, a Mozambican pro-democracy group.

Bishop Daniel Matsola, the immediate past secretary general of the Mozambique Council of Churches said the heads of State meeting in South Africa next week must   impress on the Zimbabwe leadership the need to create conditions for a credible poll before releasing money to the country for the poll.

“We recognise Zimbabwe as a sovereign state, it belongs to Sadc but the problems that Zimbabwe is facing is a concern for the entire region and Africa as a whole,” Majola said at a joint meeting of Zimbabwean and Mozambican civil society groups on Thursday night.

“It means that there is a need for us to play a role in trying to influence positive things so that we can have elections  in  accordance with Sadc standards, African Union  and international standards.

“But the main issue is that where there is intimidation, it means that there is no exercise of freedom of association, expression and willingness to open space for equal footing of all actors to participate. So what will be the way forward?

 The elections are there. The president has taken a decision that there must be an election. There is no honey without money. Are we going to have elections without resources?”

He said: “Zimbabwe cannot say we just have to have an election because we have to have an election.”
Dzimbambwe Chimbgwa, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights programmes manager, lamented the closing of space for NGOs wishing to do voter and civic education ahead of the polls.

He said there was “criminalisation” of NGOs dealing with human rights.

“We have seen in the recent past almost every organisation here has either had their offices raided or officers arrested,”he,” he said.

“And the strategy is obviously to create a cloth of illegitimacy around the organisations and therefore stop the work that they are doing. So instead of having rule of law, we have what we call rule by law as the law is used to thwart activities of organisations.”

He said the Zimbabwean state was stepping up its crackdown on NGOs.

“We have seen a strategy of surveillance, illegal searches, interception and frequent visits by the security sector on premises of organisations carrying out human rights work,”Chimbgwa said. “And because of this, most organisations doing human rights work, do  their work in fear; they don’t know what is going to happen  on a daily basis.”

He said there was also infiltration of NGOs by  the security sector.

Because of that, we have seen a lot of information and strategies being leaked to the state machinery who then use it to frame trumped up charges against the organisation itself. There is no enemy who is more dangerous than the enemy within,” Chimbgwa said.

There was also escalating of demonisation of human rights organisation in the media and other outlets.
“So this again is done to whip political emotion and antagonise people against the organisations that work in human rights,” he said.

“So you see in the state-controlled media, (human rights) organisations called names like ‘appendanges of the opposition, proxies of the west, regime change agents’and such like terms.

“This is the environment that human rights organisations in Zimbabwe have to operate under. We therefore come to you to ask for support and solidarity for the organisations that carry out their work under difficult circumstances.” - Gift Phiri in Mozambique

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