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Civics want accountability on human rights abuses

Andrew Meldrum

ZIMBABWEAN civic leaders urged President Robert Mugabe’s government and the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to hold all perpetrators of human r

ights abuses accountable as soon as the countrybegins a transition to restore democracy.

Human rights abuses of the past, both during the colonial and post-colonial eras must be redressed, said the leaders of more than 40 non-governmental organisations who met in South Africa to discuss “Civil Society and Justice in Zimbabwe”.

The organisations said that as talks between the Mugabe government and the opposition party are about to begin, they wanted the voice of civil society to be heard in the negotiations.

“We are here in South Africa because we wanted to be able to meet, think together and discuss the way forward for Zimbabwe in a safe environment outside the threat of intimidation and arrest,” said Brian Kagoro, coordinator of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

“By November we expect some form of negotiations to be underway between the ruling party, Zanu-PF, and the opposition party, MDC. There was urgency to our conference, here, because of the pace at which things are moving and our conviction that any settlement should have our participation,” Kagoro said.

The civic groups concentrated on developing ways to build a democratic and just society in Zimbabwe, in contrast to previous meetings which have focused on reports of human rights abuses, corruption and misgovernance by the Mugabe regime.

The civic leaders demanded that the Mugabe government put “an immediate end to political violence and intimidation”.

In a statement released yesterday, the groups also called for the repeal of repressive legislation and electoral reform to allow free and fair elections,and for the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis to be resolved.

The United Nations was urged to send a special rapporteur to Zimbabwe to assess the human rights environment. The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights was asked to release the report on its mission to Zimbabwe last year.

Kagoro said South Africa and Nigeria must prove there is concrete progress to keep Zimbabwe from being expelled from the Commonwealth at its heads of government meeting in December. There is also pressure from the European Union. But the most potent pressure, he said, is the growing poverty, hunger and starvation on the ground in Zimbabwe.

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