SADC: Time to flex muscle

With the recent brutal clampdown on protests in Malawi that left at least 19 people dead, Swaziland’s intolerance for free political activity and Zimbabwe’s continued resistance to democratic reforms, one gets the sense that it is high time SADC moves in a decisive way to defend basic rights and stop the rot that is creeping into southern Africa.

Dewa Mavhinga
Dewa Mavhinga

It appears both Swaziland and Malawi are following in the footsteps of Zimbabwe and are learning the art of repression from the best practitioners in the region. At its upcoming Luanda Summit mid- August, SADC leaders must show that they are prepared to take necessary measures to prevent the cancer of dictatorship and repression from engulfing the entire region.

Ample ammunition

Options for action open to SADC in the event that Zimbabwe leaders continue to frustrate reform efforts include isolating errant leaders and slapping them with effective, punitive sanctions.

SADC sanctions are likely to be more effective than the current regime of EU and US targeted travel restrictions that have not quite achieved the objective they were set for but have provided Zanu (PF) with ample propaganda ammunition.

It is much easier to build international consensus around sanctions led by SADC as most international bodies often take their cue from SADC and with SADC sanctions Zanu (PF) will not be able to resort to the tired and discredited propaganda that the fight in Zimbabwe is a fight between the west and Africa.

SADC must be under no illusion that it can talk nicely to hardliners within Zanu (PF) who are frustrating reform efforts and hope to get desired results. All indications are that elements within Zanu (PF) who wield power are prepared to take Zimbabwe to the brink. And it will take much more than words and resolutions to stop them.

A clean break

The case of Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Malawi present SADC with a rare opportunity to make a clean break with the past and take the regional bloc in a new political direction where human rights, good governance and democracy sacred values that are jealously guarded.

Under president Zuma, South Africa is best placed to provide moral leadership to SADC and to ensure that the regional bloc does not go the Zimbabwe way.

South Africa must not shy away from being the big brother in SADC; it has both the economic and political clout to demand good governance accountability from its smaller colleagues. The hopes and aspirations of millions of long-suffering Zimbabweans are pinned on SADC, our sincere hope and fervent prayer is that the regional bloc will rise up to the challenge.

Now we know SADC’s heart is in the right place, the regional body wishes for Zimbabwe to hold free and fair elections under conditions of free political activity and no violence or intimidation. But is SADC prepared to ensure that its wishes become reality? – Dewa Mavhinga, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator

Post published in: Africa News

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