The SADC Council of NGOs notes with great concern the developments following the week-long demonstrations in Zimbabwe. While ignited by the sharp increases in fuel prices beyond the reach of the ordinary citizens, the demonstrations owed much to structural failures in the economic, political and social fabric of the nation, which the authorities must address as a matter of urgency and in an inclusive manner. Citizens have a constitutional right to protest, but we express our displeasure with the heavy-handed response by the security services (the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe National Army and the Central Intelligence Organisation) that claimed the lives of at least 12 civilians and a police officer in Harare and Bulawayo, including the torture of innocent civilians and the wanton arrest of more than 700 citizens without due regard to criminal procedures. Reports of human rights abuses by the country's security forces on ordinary men and women including some minors raises concerns of the government's commitment to constitutional order and the respect of the rule of law. However, we also condemn the wanton destruction of property and the looting that also characterized the demonstrations in some locations.
We condemn the denial by the country's leadership and securocrats of their institutions' involvement in the deaths, injuries and reported abductions of people, particularly those who have been accused of leading the protests. The security forces have alleged that those people seen in police and army uniforms brandishing guns, battering and shooting at ordinary citizens are criminals who have stolen their (security forces) tools and uniforms of trade. This narrative is not only unacceptable, but also puts into question the integrity of the security services sector, while also amply demonstrating government's lack of commitment to protect its own citizens. We demand the authorities to bring all the perpetrators (both civilian and armed services) of the heinous activities to be held accountable in a transparent process so as to restore citizens' confidence in the country's legal system.
The unprecedented shutdown of internet services by the government in the aftermath of the protests have had the unavoidable effect of denying Zimbabweans their right to information and freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution and other regional and international instruments. During the internet shut down period, Zimbabweans have been effectively held incommunicado by their government as the biting social and economic challenges have rendered other forms of communication unaffordable for most of the citizens. At the same time, the government has demonstrated that it is indeed not open for business as the shutdown has serious economic repercussions on the country teetering on the brink of total collapse.
SADC CNGO reckons that the failure by the leadership of the country to put in practice the values, principles and ethos espoused by the constitution and regional SADC protocols and continental instruments that promote good governance and respect for fundamental human rights, is the major obstacle to achieving full and total democratic governance underpinned by rule of law and constitutionalism.
As the situation in the country unfolds, SADC-CNGO reiterates that it is in the best interests of Zimbabwean citizens, and the region at large, that political, social and economic normalcy can only return to the country when proper democracy and the rule of law are restored. Constitutional preservation of the afore-mentioned values could have averted the current challenges Zimbabwe finds itself in. The governance deficits in the country have provided fertile ground for the widespread looting of public resources by some elite leaders in both public and private sectors, including in civil society. This is happening despite the values, principles and commitments in existence, especially those that our leaders and government have promised. The African Union's Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, to which Zimbabwe has recently signed on is a profound commitment and reinforcement of the agreed values espoused by our national constitution and regional instruments and whose implementation should lead to the realization of the Zimbabwe We Want.
Our asks to the government and the people of Zimbabwe are as follows;
- Respect and uphold the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution of the country and other regional and continental instruments such as the African Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance;
- Desist from wanton destruction of property and looting as these are not peaceful demonstrations but criminal activities;
- Uphold human rights and allow peaceful demonstrations within the confines of the law;
- Allow freedom of expression and the right to information as provided for in the constitution through any means of communication including internet services and social media;
- Implement the national dialogue involving political parties, religious and civil leaders for national building as well as to work collectively together in resolving the structural economic, political and social challenges afflicting the nation as proposed by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe on his return to the country on the 21" of January 2019.
Issued hy the Executive Committee
SADC Council of Non-Governmental Organisations 22 January 2019
The SADC Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (SADC-CNGO) is a regional umbrella body of NGOs operating in all the 15 Member States of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). SADC¬CNGO was formed in 1998 with the aim of facilitating effective and meaningful engagement between civil society in the region and SADC institutions at both national and regional levels.
SADC - Council of NGOs
Tel: +267 3912932 Far +267 3912954
Hlabsile Nxumalo (Ms), President
For and on behalf of the Executive Committee of SADC CNGO