|16 Jan 2002
ZIMBABWE: More than diplomatic small-talk at SADC summit in Malawi?
Southern African Leaders who
gathered in Malawi on Monday, Jan 14, to find solutions to the region's
conflicts have been accused of being soft on Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe, but a communiqué issued after the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) extraordinary summit indicates there was some tough talk
behind closed doors.
While not publicly providing any ultimatums, the
communiqué said the summit "welcomed" a number of actions to be
undertaken by Zimbabwe. These included:
- full respect for human
rights, including the right to freedom of opinion, association and peaceful
assembly for all individuals;
- the commitment to
investigate fully and impartially all cases of alleged political violence in
2001 and action to do so;
- a Zimbabwean Electoral
Supervisory Commission which is adequately resourced and able to operate
- the accreditation and
registration of national independent monitors in good time for the
- a timely invitation to, and
accreditation of, a wide range of international elections
- commitment to freedom of
expression as guaranteed by the constitution of Zimbabwe;
- reaffirmation by Zimbabwe
of its practice of allowing national and international journalists to cover
important national events, including elections, on the basis of its laws and
- commitment by the
government of Zimbabwe to the independence of the judiciary and to the rule of
- the transfer by the
government of Zimbabwe of occupiers of non-designated farms to legally acquired
The summit also expressed
concern over a statement made by the Zimbabwean army that it would not accept a
leader who had not fought in Zimbabwe's liberation struggle and urged the
government to prevent the military from making political statements.
Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Zimbabwe's justice minister delayed
consideration of a controversial media bill that would muzzle the press, saying
he had suggested some changes to the legislation (see separate report).
It was the first indication that the Harare regime might be taking heed
of SADC's message.
Amnesty International, however, said in a statement
on Wednesday that "Zimbabwe's trail of broken human rights promises should make
members of SADC wary of commitments made at the summit. "'Quiet diplomacy'
should not become silent acquiescence to continuing gross human rights
violations in Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe has made promises of human
rights reforms to the Commonwealth, to the European Union and now to SADC - but
there is no sign that the war of killings, torture and intimidation against the
political opposition is slowing. Will SADC verify the promises they have
received - and if so, how?" the statement asked.
In addition, solidarity
groups in Europe critizised authorities in Malawi for the arrest of four civil
society representatives from the Zimbabwe Crisis Committee (Brian Raftopolous,
a well known civil rights campaigner in Zimbabwe who chairs the Zimbabwe Crisis
Committee, Munyaradzi Bidi, Theresa Mugadza, and Kumbirai Hodzi) after their
arrival in Blantyre to observe the SADC summit. They were held in custody
overnight and deported back to Zimbabwe next morning.- Zimbabweans do not
require visas to go to Malawi. (IRIN)