SADC must address Zim polls, economy

President Robert Mugabe will next week become the new chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as Zimbabwe takes over leadership of the regional bloc from Malawi.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

It is likely that issues set before the Victoria Falls summit for deliberation will be determined mostly by Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party. This has already been shown in the SADC theme, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Mugabe’s Zim Asset – if one considers the wording of both the economic blueprint and the theme.

However, the summit goes beyond installing Mugabe as the next chair; it remains a regional meeting at which numerous matters relating to SADC must be discussed and resolutions made. As the SADC heads and their delegations start trickling into Zimbabwe, it is vital to highlight two main issues that need to be worked on regarding the host country.

In this regard, governments on one side and non-state agencies represented by civil society on the other must bear in mind contentious issues that continue to burden Zimbabwe. For a start, there is need for robust debate around last year’s general elections.

Readers will recall that SADC expressed serious concerns regarding the manner in which the polls were conducted. It expressed grave reservations over the failure by ZEC to avail the electronic voters’ roll, the unusually high numbers of assisted voters and failure by a significant poling population to cast their votes.

The regional bloc recommended that these anomalies be addressed and mechanisms put in place to ensure that future elections are completely free and fair. The summit must therefore provide a platform for peer review as one of its main agendas.

Mugabe’s government must tell the bloc what it has done to right the anomalies for the sake of future polls and current redress if possible. In this regard, civil society must keep the pressure on the converging regional leaders to ensure that the matter is adequately dealt with.

In addition, Mugabe as incoming SADC chair ought to be taken to task about the worsening economic crisis in Zimbabwe. This is important not only because the crisis presents an acute challenge to this country, but also due to the fact that the instability caused by economic collapse in Zimbabwe will spill over to neighbouring countries with extremely harmful effects – as we saw between 2000 and 2008.

During that period, millions of Zimbabweans trekked to neighbouring countries, thereby exerting pressure on resources in those destinations. The xenophobic wave of violence that broke out in South Africa in the 2000s was partly a reaction to the influx of Zimbabweans into, a development that generated regional security concerns.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga
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