Gabriel Shumba, a human rights lawyer who was severely tortured by Mugabe’s regime in 2003, led an urgent application to the tribunal last week seeking to block Mugabe from attending the weekend SADC summit in South Africa as head of state. SADC however failed to respond and Mugabe was welcomed as Zimbabwe’s leader, despite the application and a boycott of the meeting by Botswana’s President Ian Khama, who refused to attend because his government does not recognise Mugabe’s re-election.
The forum has now taken the legal fight further, serving papers on several individuals as well as the tribunal’s head office, in an effort to get Mugabe and his regime officially declared illegitimate. The urgent application was filed against SADC, its Executive Secretary Tomaz Augusto SalomÃƒÂ£o, Mugabe and the government of Zimbabwe. The action seeks to hold SADC to it’s own founding principles, arguing that since Mugabe’s election as President of Zimbabwe was declared by SADC itself, as neither free and nor fair and not reflective of the democratic will, Mugabe should not be recognised as a head of state.
Human rights lawyer with the Forum, Anna Moyo, told Newsreel on Thursday that the African Union law requires that a state party be suspended immediately once there is an unconstitutional change in government. She explained that any refusal by that government to relinquish power is equivalent to a political coup d’etat.
Moyo argued that since Mugabe was not constitutionally elected, he was not a lawful head of state and should not be allowed to take his seat at the SADC summit, or any other forum. He said the forum wants the tribunal to declare that, in terms of SADC’s own underlying principles set out in the SADC Treaty, it may not recognise governments that come to power by unconstitutional means.
The SADC tribunal was recently set up to deal with cases coming from it’s 14 member states. The first case it had to deal with involved Zimbabwe, after several white farmers challenged the seizure of their farms. The tribunal ordered the government to stop the seizures, but this ruling was ignored by Mugabe’s government. SW Radio Africa News, 21 August 2008