SADC chair puts spotlight on Zim

President Robert Mugabe took over the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from Malawi’s Arthur Mutharika last Sunday. This means Zimbabwe will be in the driving seat for the next 12 months.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

The assumption of this position brings with it numerous responsibilities and burdens that President Mugabe must take seriously. As the new SADC chair, he will need to work hard to improve the situation in Zimbabwe as well as the entire region.

In a joint statement released last week, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch noted that several southern African countries—notably Zimbabwe, Malawi and Angola—had a huge human rights deficit. This centred mainly on the failure to align laws with the new constitution in the case of our country. General problems in the region include muzzling the media, political retribution and failure to provide basic social services.

The issue of the alignment of new laws with the new constitution that was adopted last year is paramount. It is a litmus test for our government, which is supposed to lead by example. Currently, we have perhaps the most unconstitutional country in the region and beyond – as more than 400 laws are at variance with the constitution. Yet we keep using them.

While the local and international communities have hailed the new constitution as a relatively good legal document, it will all come to nought if we don’t move with speed to ensure that the statutes are in line with it. But this is just one example. There is still need to ensure justice and reconciliation by bringing the perpetrators of political violence to justice. Our electoral laws and institutions need a complete overhaul.

There is no way Mugabe can claim success at the end of his tenure as the SADC chair if he does not ensure that the above issues are addressed and rectified.

The rest of the region will be looking at what happens in Zimbabwe. So, while he can rejoice that he was chosen as the chair, this is a blessing in disguise for Zimbabweans. The chairmanship puts pressure on him to take Zimbabwe out of the doldrums.

We fervently hope Mugabe will not try to use his term as SADC chair to impose his own values on the region and ride over it rough shod. Instead, he is supposed to work hand in glove with the rest of southern Africa to improve political, economic and social conditions in Zimbabwe and the other member states, particularly the ones still considered to be undemocratic.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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