The SADC community and civil society has with dismay and concern observed obscene police and military brutality and impunity meted against citizens, activists and journalists in Zimbabwe in the last weeks.
The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), Sonke Gender Justice, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and SECTION 27, joins other civil society organisations in calling for an end to gross human rights violations, excessive use of force by the police and military and the arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and peaceful protesters in Zimbabwe.
This brutal and unmerited crackdown was the result of protest actions widely supported by Zimbabwean nationals, activists and journalists reacting to the deficient response by the Zimbabwean government to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been embroiled in alleged corruption, in the context of a historical socio-economic crisis in the country.
South Africa and the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) continued silence in the ongoing human rights violations in Zimbabwe sends a message of complacency and exoneration to the Zimbabwean government.
As the world and SADC region is grappling with the continued and increasing spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the worsened livelihoods and vulnerability of millions in the region. The time is now for SADC States and their leaders to cooperate and hold each other accountable in ensuring that this pandemic does not further cripple the economies and democracies of the region let alone putting ordinary citizens’ lives in danger that can lead to loss of lives.
As group of civil society organisations in South Africa we are calling on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to act swiftly and publicly condemn the human rights violations and arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters occurring in Zimbabwe.
As torture, one of the most heinous human rights abuses, becomes a reality for Zimbabwean nationals, we are calling on the South Africa Office of the Presidency to intervene in fulfilling their mandate to investigate and prosecute international crimes.
Lastly, as the current Chair of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa is positioned strongly to ensure accountability and condemn continued human rights abuses occurring in Zimbabwe. We are calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take a leading voice in speaking out against these ongoing atrocities.