Initiative to end Zim crisis welcome

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EDITOR — THE July 31st Movement heartily welcomes the initiatives by the South African governing party, the African National Congress (ANC) and President Cyril Ramaphosa, to deploy envoys and delegations to help resolve the multi-faceted humanitarian, human rights, socio-economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe.

It is trite that there is definitely a crisis in Zimbabwe! To fully understand the challenges and find a lasting solution, it is critical that all key stakeholders be consulted and engaged with; including the government of Zimbabwe, the main political parties, churches, civil society, trade unions, the media and grassroots citizens’ movements.

The July 31st Movement wishes to highlight the following 10 key areas for the consideration of the South African delegation and envoys:

· There is rampant high-level corruption in Zimbabwe, including Covid-19-related corruption which is going on without any accountability or recovery of stolen resources.
· Zimbabwe has a major human rights problem under Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidency, including unresolved cases of abductions and torture of government critics; which has escalated without the arrest of any of the abductors.

As usual, the Zimbabwe government denies these abductions and tortures; we challenge them to allow the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture to carry out an independent investigation into the growing reports of torture.

· The Zimbabwe government has been unwilling to listen and engage with its citizens. Instead of addressing the issues raised by critics, the critics who have genuine concerns, were described as “dark forces”, “a few rogue Zimbabweans” and “terrorist opposition groupings”. Nothing was said about the constitutional rights of Zimbabweans to peacefully protest or the violations of government’s domestic and international human rights obligations.

· Zimbabwe faces an acute humanitarian crisis and violations of the right to food, as acute food shortages persist. According to the United Nations, 7,7 million people are food insecure. Around 5,5 million of these people live in the rural areas and 2,2 million in urban areas. The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened Zimbabwe’s food crisis as government adopted nuanced containment measures. The very measures have been associated with violations of fundamental rights, including public beatings, hefty unwarranted fines and shaming of people over allegations of not wearing the masks correctly.

· Zimbabwe’s security forces frequently use excessive force to crush protests and silence government critics. The security forces used excessive lethal force to crush nationwide protests in January 2019 which had been triggered by Mnangagwa’s sudden announcement of a fuel price increase. During the demonstrations throughout Zimbabwe, government forces fired live ammunition on civilians killing 17 people. There has been no accountability or justice enforced for these gruesome atrocities on civilians and to date no soldier has been arrested.

· On August 1, 2018, protests over delayed election results consequential in widespread violence erupted in Harare. The Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry was appointed, found that six people died and 35 others were injured as a result of actions by State security forces. The commission’s important recommendations were ignored, including the need to hold those responsible for the abuses to account through compensation to families of those killed and compensation to those who lost property.

· The government continues to encroach upon leaders, by threatening and conducting arrests, issuing wanted notices for all organisers of any anti-government protests and arresting protest leaders like MP Job Sikhala. Sikhala is currently in prison after being denied bail.

We are aware that most of our activists are living in the bush for fear of arrests due to simply being suspected of having intended to protest. There is nowhere in the Constitution where an intention to participate in a peaceful protest against corruption is a crime.

· Zimbabwe’s offer to pay US$3,5 billion compensation to white farmers should not sanitise the region and make South Africa, Sadc and the African Union ignore the serious on-going human rights abuses with impunity. International re-engagement should be based on good governance, anti-corruption, respect for the rule of law and human rights.

· Zimbabwe urgently needs strong and independent justice systems, electoral systems, governance systems and anti-corruption institutions that are not controlled by the ruling Zanu PF party. Without independent institutions, it will be impossible to transform Zimbabwe and successfully resolve the crisis.

· South Africa’s initiatives to help resolve Zimbabwe’s challenges should lead to a national dialogue process that leaves no-one behind and that openly confronts the challenges in full transparency and demands justice and accountability.

We petition that your envoy consider and make representation to the government of Zimbabwe on the following:

· Process and victim-led broad-based national dialogue: led by a neutral, reputable former president of an African state, underwritten by Sadc and the AU, at a neutral venue.

· A National Transitional Authority (NTA) to work on electoral reforms, demilitarisation and restoration of the independence of State institutions and processes. Including economic and electoral reforms and freeing the media, leading to free and fair elections based on agreed timelines.

· National healing, truth telling and the release of all political prisoners.
· Economic reforms that centre on the inclusive improvement of people’s livelihoods, including the elimination of corruption and bringing to account those fingered in corruption activities.

· Respect of Section 59 of the Constitution, allowing freedom to protest.
· Investigations by a regional tribunal or an international criminal court; of all cases of torture and State-sponsored violence thus bringing perpetrators to book.

— July 31st Movement

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