OUTSIDE LOOKING IN – A letter from the diaspora

sadc_reJust a week ago the SADC Summit opened in the Namibian capital.

11 regional leaders were present and the meeting was all over in a few hours. Zimbabwe was not on the agenda but that did not stop the Namibian police with the help of Zimbabwes CIO from forcibly removing Zimbabwean civil rights activists from outside the venue. SADC has shown very few signs that its own citizens concerns are of any importance in their deliberations. And, as if to illustrate that point, SADC dissolved their Human Rights Tribunal this week.

The dissolution of the SADC Human Rights Tribunal was a blow, not only for Zimbabwes remaining white farmers but for all Southern African citizens. There are apparently just 230 white farmers left in business from the original 4.500 at the start of the so-called Land Reform Programme. Right on cue, Zimbabwes Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa declared that the government would now push ahead with its land reforms without the Tribunal on its back. True to his words, government backed war veterans are now moving from farm to farm in the Midlands and Mashonaland provinces intimidating white farmers to get off their land. Title deeds have long since ceased to have any meaning in Zimbabwe where the Rule of Law has virtually collapsed thanks to a partisan police force and judiciary. Robert Mugabe is pushing for elections this year and has made it known that he wants all white farmers off the land before elections are held.

Zanu PF declared this week that they have abandoned the GPA electoral roadmap and hardliners within the party have threatened to leave SADC unless they get their own way. The next SADC meeting is scheduled for June 11th and the MDC is demanding that reform of the security sector be discussed there. That is not going to happen says Patrick Chinamasa and Robert Mugabe, also rejecting the MDC call for reform of the security sector declares them to be an exemplary and reputable force.

How Mugabe can justify such a claim is hard to fathom when in this one week alone we have seen numerous examples of the police being utterly disreputable. They have refused lawyers access to their Zimrights clients and even denied they know where the two, Florence Ndlovu and Walter Dube, are being held. In blatant disregard of a court order which had given permission for an anti-torture workshop to be held for villagers in Tsholotsho, the Zimrights activists were picked up at a road block with the police claiming that they had instructions to shoot. That was five days ago and the two activists have not been seen since. Woza women were once again arrested after they mounted another peaceful demo in Bulawayo against power cuts and twenty seven innocent mourners at the funeral of an MDC official were arrested and held for five days before they were released without charge.

Most shocking in my view are the attacks on churches. Civilised countries would consider police disrupting church services as totally unacceptable. It is in fact unconstitutional in a country where the constitution enshrines freedom of worship as a basic right as the Zimbabwean constitution does. The Christian Alliance is a coalition of church leaders which has compiled a report they intend to put before the next SADC meeting. In their report they have detailed the numerous examples of police harassment against churches and their congregations. The Alliance Director is the Reverend Useni Sibanda and his comment goes to the heart of the matter: The surprising thing is that the police never cause disruptions when Zanu PF officials join the apostolic church sects in worship where they turn those gatherings into political rallies. Zimbabweans all know exactly what the Reverend Sibanda was referring to.

By dissolving the Human Rights Tribunal, SADC has left citizens of all faiths and none at the mercy of a partisan police force with nowhere to turn for justice.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson author of the Dube books which detail in fictional form the gradual decline of the ZRP over the past decade. The books are available from Lulu.com.

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