OPPOSITION MDC Alliance (MDC-A) president Nelson Chamisa (pictured) has called for urgent Sadc intervention in the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, saying the deteriorating political, economic and social environment presents a major security threat to the southern African region.
Regional political players and civil society are piling pressure on Sadc to intervene and find a lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s deepening crisis, underlined by gross human rights violations, an economic meltdown and political instability.
Despite the mounting pressure, Sadc — at its annual Heads of States and Government summit on Monday — did not include the Zimbabwean crisis on the agenda, resulting in sharp criticism by civil society organisations and a cross-section of Zimbabweans.
In fact, a communiqué issued by the Sadc secretariat at the end of the meeting extolled President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s virtues for “his sterling efforts” in ensuring peace and stability in the region and spoke of the need for Sadc member states to unite against external enemies, language synonymous with Harare’s official position.
In an exclusive interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week — the first locally since he took a long sabbatical after losing his mother last month — Chamisa said although Zimbabwe was not included in the original agenda, he is reliably informed that the issue was raised in the meeting following a seismic campaign bringing the world’s attention to horrific human rights abuses by the state.
He, however, added that it would have been “expecting too much” for Mnangagwa, who was the chairperson of the Sadc Organ for Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation until this week, to have put himself on the Sadc summit agenda.
Zimbabwean citizens as well other influential African international personalities have been amplifying the Zimbabwe crisis through the online #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaign.
The campaign pushed South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to send special envoys to Zimbabwe in a bid to engage Zimbabwe’s political players on the crisis.
However, they only met with Mnangagwa and failed to meet with the opposition and civil society as had been planned after after the government barred them from doing so.
“Now that Mr Mnangagwa is no longer the chairperson of the Organ on Security and Defence, we remain hopeful that the
new chairperson will consider the plight of the long suffering people of Zimbabwe and take active steps, as he is required by the Sadc Treaty and Protocols, and become seized with the fast deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe,” Chamisa said.
“Although Zimbabwe was not included in the communiqué, it remains uncontested that the unfolding events in Zimbabwe were discussed. We know from past experiences that the communiqué does not often contain all matters discussed. Be that as it may, we remain convinced that Sadc plays a significant role in addressing the Zimbabwean crisis.
“No sane or rational citizen can argue that the current state of affairs in the country is not a threat to the security and peace of the people of Zimbabwe if not that of the Sadc region. The political situation in Zimbabwe constitutes a clear and present danger not just to the security and peace of the people of Zimbabwe, but also to the region’s peace and security,” Chamisa pointed out.
He said an economically and politically burning Zimbabwe sets ablaze its neighbours with its smoke choking the entire Sadc region, adding that his party would continue “to exhort and urge Sadc to be truly a southern African people’s union and not a trade union of leaders’ blind solidarity”.
The Zanu PF government accuses outside forces of interfering in Zimbabwe’s sovereignty, working in cohorts with alleged local partners.
But Chamisa said the concept of interference in the internal affairs of a country was an “archaic and old-fashioned concept” which had no place in the modern world in which nations or parties to various international treaties on various forms of human rights.
“It is the favourite shield of dictators desirous of being left to murder, abduct, abuse, wrongfully imprison and generally violate the human rights of citizens,” he said.
“In our view, the international community has set up adequate international mechanisms to intervene in situations which threaten not just regional and international security and peace, but also internal security and peace. We need to go further than Sadc Treaty and Protocols to realise that the bloc has a right, in fact an obligation, to intervene in Zimbabwe when the internal situation in the country is deemed to constitute a threat to the security and peace of the region.”
The MDC-A has been challenging Mnangagwa’s legitimacy accrediting the Zimbabwean crisis to the contested legitimacy.
“We must have a national convergence and consensus on the problem definition, trajectory definition and destination definition in order to create a national galvanising moment and that necessary electricity to generate national progress,” Chamisa said.
“Zimbabwe must return to legitimacy and democracy. Legitimacy is not a pre-condition but a post-condition of any dialogue. A legitimate state must be the outcome of any genuine nation-building dialogue process.”
He said the issue of Ramaphosa’s envoys being blocked from meeting with other players exposed the Mnangagwa administration, as it gave the envoys a first-hand account of the challenges being faced when his party tries to engage in “good faith”.
“We need our leaders to take strong leadership, especially over the problems in Zimbabwe, which have gone on for too long and are impacting neighbours in very negative ways. Our view is Zimbabwe is too big a problem to be delegated. It requires those who want to help to take a hands-on approach,” Chamisa said.
“We like the fact that people around President Ramaphosa, including Ministers Naledi Pandor and Lindiwe Zulu have made it clear that there is a political crisis in Zimbabwe. We also noted the words of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule pointing today the crisis here and for which he was attacked by Zanu PF’s Mr (Patrick) Chinamasa. This is a change of wind from the hesitation and reticence of the past. Everyone is fed up and when people are fed up, they act.
“So, we expect this process to lay the ground for us to walk into the path of economic progress. We are guided by long-term interests, not short-term gains. If we wanted that we could have accepted the carrots that were being dangled in front of us after 2018. We rejected that because we appreciated that it was not the solution to our problems as a people. Zimbabwe must return to legitimacy and democracy through a credible dialogue process aimed at unlocking the crisis in our country stemming from a vicious cycle of contested elections since 2000.”
The opposition leader said the role of regional players was to help Zimbabwe help itself.
“At the end of the day, it is the commitment of national leaders that should decide the destiny of our great country. I pray and hope that Mr Mnangagwa will have the same commitment as I have to find a lasting solution to our areas of dispute. We must move away from their current denialism and ostrich mentality.
Since 2000, it has all been about the Zimbabwean crisis,” Chamisa said.