The conference brought together human rights organisations from across the region, including Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, and South Africa, as well as numerous groups based in Zimbabwe. It was clear that many people, both inside and outside of Zimbabwe, were dedicated to helping the country recover from the ongoing crisis, and we were honoured to be around pioneers of a people-driven Zimbabwe. However, it also became increasingly apparent that, despite the importance of regional solidarity, the only people who would be able to effect change in the country are Zimbabweansand not the Zimbabweans in government.
Much of the conference was focused on supposed accountability mechanisms for the government of national unity. What will SADC do to ensure that Mugabe and Tsvangirai comply with the terms of the global political agreement? What will the Joint Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC) do? Both the head of the SADC facilitation team and a member of JOMIC made it abundantly obvious that neither SADC nor JOMIC would be responsible for ensuring the success of the agreement. SADC, despite being a guarantor of the agreement, leaves it to JOMIC to enforce. Simultaneously, JOMIC, as articulated by Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, is a political body whose members are more dedicated to their individual political parties than they are to the success of the agreement.
JOMIC, she indicated, was not dedicated to ensuring that human rights abuses stop, but to ensuring that international donors believe that Zimbabwe is a country worthy of support. What, then, is to be done when human rights abuses so clearly continue? When political violence is ongoing and when basic needs remain out of reach for many Zimbabweans, who is left to take responsibility? Only the Zimbabweans who suffer have the incentive to publicise it, but even these individuals are also constrained by the promise of change if enough people just keep quiet. If enough people just do not speak of the situation facing everyday Zimbabweans, and especially those who have the courage to fight against injustice, then maybe international funders will provide enough money to better the living conditions, to bring Zimbabwe back to what it used to be.
Ignored in this process are the people who have left already, the millions of Zimbabweans in South Africa and other countries. When the South African government, for instance, believes that all is well in Zimbabwe and that no one in Zimbabwe is subject to any unjustified detention, to beatings, and to the complete lack of rule of law, they reject the asylum applications of Zimbabweans. They feel that there is no reason for Zimbabweans to remain in South Africa, there is no reason for them not to go home, especially when the Prime Minister has publicly urged Zimbabweans to return home from the United Kingdom. As we have said repeatedly, the millions of rand that Zimbabweans in South Africa are sending back to Zimbabwe have ensured the survival of innumerable Zimbabweans at home. It is vital that this humanitarian aid continue. Allowing government to pretend that everything is okay, that things have returned to normal, allowing government to urge people to return home – it puts all of this in danger. It is a long-term solution that is needed, but we see government thinking about their next election, their own pockets and only short-term improvements reliant on charity. It is up to civil society in Zimbabwe and to Zimbabweans at home to reject this. We need to reject the lip service offered by government because we do not want to be beggars and because we have had enough of the abuses. It is not charity we need but a government that does not steal.Post published in: Politics