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Zimbabwe: Solidarity Newsletter
Mar 2, 2005 (050302)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The Zimbabwean elections of 2000 and 2002 deepened the political
crisis, rather than contributing to a progressive resolution. Since
2002 democratic space has been further eroded. What Zimbabwe needs
now is not another gravely flawed election but a SADC-facilitated
negotiated transition towards democracy." - Zimbabwe Solidarity
Conference, South Africa, February 24-25, 2005
With parliamentary elections set for March 31, tension is
escalating in Zimbabwe. Opposition and independent candidates are
competing in the elections, and observers from the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) and other organizations are expected
to be present. But the dominant notes in the pre-election climate
are intimidation and repression, with the expression of opinion by
Zimbabwean NGOs and independent media more limited than ever.
International attention tends to focus on critiques from Western
governments and the reluctance of governments in Southern Africa
to go beyond quiet diplomacy in confronting the ruling Mugabe
regime's violations of democratic rights. But perhaps the most
important new development is increasing activism on Zimbabwe by
civil society in the region, including trade unions, churches,
youth groups, Zimbabwean exiles, and others.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains reports on the Zimbabwe
Solidarity Conference, excerpted from the latest issue of the new
Zimbabwe Solidarity Newsletter. For more details on the newsletter
and how to subscribe, see the note below at the beginning of the
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zimbabwe, visit
The latest news from allafrica.com and IRIN is available at
Other sources of current news on the Zimbabwe elections and related
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Zimbabwe Solidarity Newsletter
Issue 2, Sunday 27 February, 2005
[Excerpts only. From e-mail newsletter published by the Zimbabwe
Solidarity and Consultation Forum, a network of progressive South
African civil society organizations, including youth, women,
labour, faith-based, human rights and student formations.
To subscribe to the Zimbabwe Solidarity Newsletter, send a message
to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please specify in the subject
line whether you want the plain-text or PDF version. Full text of
past issues can be found on the Zimbabwe Situation website
(http://www.zimbabwesituation.com). Letters, reactions or opinions can
be sent to email@example.com with the words
'Newsletter reaction' in the subject.]
Solidarity in Practice - the Zimbabwe Solidarity Conference
It wasn't always easy for the many speakers to address the plenary
session of the solidarity conference on the 24th and 25th of
February. The atmosphere at the conference facility in the South
African capital was fiery, and laden with activist energy. Chanting
and singing filled the conference hall on several occasions and
came to a climax when Morgan Tsvangirai approached the hall. The
many Amandla!'s and much spontaneous singing resulted in speeches
lasting longer than planned as well as a very sweaty organizing
committee. Jeremy Cronin had to wait at least ten minutes before
the singing crowd, happy to see him stand before them, allowed him
to read out and explain the collectively drafted statement.
The bulk of the chanting and singing came from a big presence of
South African youth organizations such as Cosas and Sasco. They
cheered up the atmosphere with their activist energy as well as
provided the necessary insightfulness with critical questions to
the keynote speakers. But delegates were not only of South African
origin. Civics from the SADC region at large were well represented,
and delegates from as far away as the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Malawi and Angola were present, alongside with brothers and sisters
from Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and Zambia.
Another show of solidarity came from the chair of the conference,
Bishop Rubin Phillip of Kwazulu-Natal, when he asked for moments of
silence and moments of prayer. These allowed delegates a chance to
commemorate the many Zimbabweans who have given their lives for
freedom. This sombre reflections allowed participants to pay
respect to the many who, over the last few years, have been killed,
tortured, raped or have been made homeless as a consequence of
their continued struggle for freedom. But with the
Inter-denominational Women's Prayer League from Mamelodi to back
the prayers up many found their moment of silence with Zimbabwean
friends and family on their minds and in their hearts.
The conference ended in several strong commitments to concrete acts
of solidarity, as can be witnessed by the conference statement
(further on in the newsletter) and the ensuing agenda. The
conference agreed that the focus should not only be on the March
2005 elections, but also long-term. It was further noted that these
problems not only exist in Zimbabwe but elsewhere in the region but
that we have to join forces to tackle the Zimbabwe crisis first.
Delegates emphasised that we have to repay Zimbabwe for the respect
and support it showed us during the anti-apartheid struggle as much
as we would expect their help and assistance again if ever we in
South Africa are faced with the ordeals Zimbabwe is now faced with.
Bishop Rubin closed the conference with a poem by Freedom
Nyamubaya, who had joined Mugabe's ZANLA army at the age of 15
where her first sexual experience with men was to be raped in the
camp - an all-too-common experience for many women recruits in the
ZANLA forces during the liberation war. And sadly today this
experience is no different for the many young women in the youth
Poem Hey Man, Come with Me!
Sometimes I get lonely
While the world is full of life.
I see happy faces torn with joy,
loving girl-friends and loving husbands.
I sit and wonder what is wrong
for I stand with thousands
and I only count as one.
Mother is so far.
Maybe she is dead.
This world gets so frantic -
I really miss home.
Oh! Forget about home,
It's another blood pool.
But I love my people
This, I cannot hide . . .
Hey man, come with me!
let us fight this fight together.
Yes, I store love for you,
but I will always love my people.
If we have a family, let Fighters be our name;
we need no ring, no ceremony -
Let victory be our ring.
Courtesy of Freedom T.V. Nyamubuya, from "on the road again",
Reporting Back - Third Zimbabwe Solidarity Conference
The Third Zimbabwe Solidarity Conference was held in Pretoria,
South Africa on the 24th and 25th of February. Attendees at the
Conference included representatives from civil society
organizations across the SADC region who had come together to
discuss a program of action in solidarity with Zimbabweans in the
run up to the March 31st parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, and
The Conference began with a keynote address by COSATU secretary
general, Zwelenzima Vavi. Vavi noted the historic ties between
South Africa and Zimbabwe, including between the two nation's
labour movements before describing the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe.
Assessing the upcoming March 31st elections in Zimbabwe, Vavi said,
"it will take a miracle to save the credibility of these
elections." Obstacles to a free and fair election, Vavi said,
included draconian legislation such as the Public Order and
Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection
Act (AIPPA), as well as the "chaotic voters roll," which Vavi said
"is in a complete shambles."
Two veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, Wilfred Mhanda and
Freedom Nyamubaya also spoke at the conference. Mhanda emphasised
that the liberation struggle had been a struggle of the Zimbabwean
people, saying, "Mugabe on his own could not have liberated
Zimbabwe." Addressing the upcoming elections, Mhanda argued that
election conditions that would be unacceptable in South Africa
should also be unacceptable in Zimbabwe.
The President of the Young Communists' League, David Masondo,
addressed the conference. Masondo criticized the ZANU (PF) regime,
saying that the history of oppression had been appropriated by
Mugabe. Masondo also identified the role played by repressive
legislation and violence, asking, "How can Zimbabweans resolve
their own problems when the necessary conditions are not there?"
"We are very critical of that stance of our government," he added.
Chris Landsberg, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies,
described the possibility of SADC intervening in the Zimbabwean
crisis as very unlikely, suggesting that SADC countries were
hesitant to criticize Mugabe for fear of being seen as "sellouts."
Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) addressed the Conference at the opening of
the second day. Tsvangirai said that ZANU (PF) had betrayed the
ideal of "one man, one vote" espoused by the liberation struggle.
Focusing on the March election, Tsvangirai noted the poor condition
of the voters roll, saying that the MDC estimated that there were
between 800,000 and 1 million dead voters on the roll. "The
election will not be free and fair no matter what the result," said
Tsvangirai, citing Zimbabwe's continuing non-compliance with the
SADC Norms and Guidelines governing democratic elections.
Tsvangirai stressed that there was consensus on the issue of land
redistribution in Zimbabwe, but that the MDC disagreed with the
ruling party over the methodology, saying land should go to
ordinary people not politicians.
The President of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU),
Lovemore Matombo, likened the workers of Zimbabwe to "the grass
that suffers when two bull elephants fight."
Through extensive discussions, the Conference produced a programme
of action targeted at drawing greater attention to the suffering of
Zimbabweans and promoting action from all stakeholders in the
region. The Conference identified the resolution of the "persisting
political blockage" as the necessary condition for addressing the
social, economic and moral crises in Zimbabwe. The Conference also
stated that the March 31st elections "will not be remotely
compliant with [the SADC] guidelines" and stated its support for a
more "hands-on role" by SADC in the elections. A statement drafted
by the plenary session of the conference is included in this
Statement 3rd Zimbabwean Solidarity Conference
24th-25th February, South Africa,
the Zimbabwe Solidarity and Consultation Forum
The Zimbabwe Solidarity and Consultation forum is a network of
progressive South African civil society organizations, including
youth, women, labour, faith-based, human rights and student
formations. Over the past months our network has grown rapidly in
size and influence, and we say confidently that we have contributed
to a much greater understanding of the crisis and challenges in
Zimbabwe within our organizations and within the broader South
African debate. We convened our 3rd Zimbabwe Solidarity Conference
on the 24-25th February in Tshwane to assess progress in our work
and to discuss a programme of action going forward.
All dimensions of the crisis in Zimbabwe require urgent attention.
However, it is the persisting political blockage that makes it
difficult to address the social, economic and moral crises in any
sustainable way. Our solidarity efforts need to be directed at the
political crisis in Zimbabwe as a priority but not to the exclusion
of the other dimensions of the crisis.
We commend efforts made by the South African government and by SADC
to foster talks between the major political forces in Zimbabwe to
arrive at a negotiated road-map for a democratic transition. These
endeavours have not succeeded for the moment. There has been a lack
of seriousness from the side of the ZANU-PF government. The
unilateral declaration of a March 31 election date by the
Zimbabwean government is in complete breach of the spirit and
intent of that process.
As we move towards March 31, we need to bear in mind that the
Zimbabwean elections of 2000 and 2002 deepened the political
crisis, rather than contributing to a progressive resolution. Since
2002 democratic space has been further eroded. What Zimbabwe needs
now is not another gravely flawed election but a SADC-facilitated
negotiated transition towards democracy.
Comparing 2005 with the elections of 2000 and 2002 there is one
crucially important difference now. We have in place the SADC
Principles and Guidelines. All SADC governments have solemnly
signed these Principles, which commit them (in terms of clause 7.1)
to a scrupulous implementation. As South African and Southern
African citizens we are proud of these very important and
thoroughly progressive Principles and Guidelines. The fundamental
requirements of a legitimate election are no longer a matter of
vagueness, they are clearly benchmarked.
It is already clear that the forthcoming March 31 elections will
not be remotely compliant with these Principles and Guidelines. We
believe that the majority of SADC governments should appreciate
very clearly that any pragmatic compromise on the SADC Principles
and Guidelines, in the vain hope that this compromise will
establish some kind of stability in Zimbabwe will, in fact:
*. Perpetuate the Zimbabwean political crisis;
*. Undermine the standing of our regional governments in the eyes
of their citizens and the international community at large.
They will also appreciate that this is a litmus test for other
elections in our region.
We support President Mbeki's views that SADC must have a much more
hands on role in the run up to the March 31 elections. We believe
that this must apply with even greater vigour after the end of
March. SADC must actively fulfil its responsibilities in Zimbabwe
to open up democratic space that remains open beyond the election
itself. We are disappointed that SADC, for whatever reason, has in
the past weeks been slow to take up its role in Zimbabwe.
In the coming days and weeks, we, the participating formations
within the Zimbabwe Solidarity and Consultation Forum will be
intensifying our activities within South Africa and throughout our
region, in support of our vision and in solidarity with the people
of Zimbabwe. We call on all South and Southern Africans to join us
in these activities. Our solidarity efforts will need to extend way
beyond the election itself.
At this week's conference we have agreed upon a wide range of
practical activities aimed at raising awareness and conscientising
people about the crisis in Zimbabwe which include:
*. Mass actions aimed at popularizing our vision and mobilizing and
organizing people behind our solidarity efforts. These actions
include support for the COSATU programme and a range of other
localized and national efforts on campuses, within places of
worship and in communities.
* Our solidarity front also welcomes COSATU's efforts with allied
formations in SATUCC. Many of our participating formations will
also be working closely with their regional counterparts.
*. We will also be supporting a range of efforts to ensure that
South African civil society formations are represented in election
*. Engaging the media to ensure adequate and impartial coverage of
the situation in Zimbabwe and using our networks to increase access
*. A consolidation of the growing level of participation of mass
based youth and student structures in our solidarity efforts and
recognition of the importance of this involvement.
During the coming days further details of the specific activities
will be released as action plans are further developed.
SADC finally invited to oversee elections
The Southern African Development Community has finally, 58 days too
late according to their own guidelines, been invited to monitor the
March 31 elections in Zimbabwe. This belated invitation in itself
shows ZANU-PF's blatant disrespect for SADC and its 13 members and
it's unwillingness to abide by the SADC principles and guidelines
for free and fair elections, according to analysts. As a
consequence it will become increasingly difficult for SADC to
describe the elections as "credible", as it did in 2002, because it
had failed to monitor the run-up to the elections Anne Hamerstad,
an expert on SADC at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies
said. Sehlare Makgetlaneng of the Africa Institute of South Africa
went further to say, "It is already too late to send an observer
mission now. SADC should have been more pro-active."
Invitations have been extended to some 32 countries, including 23
from Africa and five from Asia. Several organisations have also
been invited, including the African Union, the Common Market for
Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Non-Aligned Movement and
the United Nations. (IRIN, 21 Feb)
Analysis - the SADC Protocol and the Observers: Does this
Contribute to Regional Solidarity for Liberation Ideals and Agenda?
Much hope has been placed on the SADC Principles and Guidelines
Governing Democratic Elections. Clearly the hope has been that
Zimbabwe's voluntary acceptance of African standards would lead to
a situation in which Zimbabwe would create the internal conditions
for a poll that could be accepted by its regional allies.
However, SADC now finds itself in a serious dilemma. Ever since the
disputed election in 2000, SADC has been fighting a series of
rear-guard actions to maintain its credibility over Zimbabwe. At
the UN Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Summit, the EU-ACP Parliamentary Forum, and in other
international fora, SADC member states have fought to prevent
Zimbabwe's further isolation, and, in so doing, have tried to
portray the Zimbabwe crisis as minimal. This has meant that the
more odious features of the crisis - the gross human rights
violations, the burgeoning food shortages, and the general economic
collapse - have all had to be down-played in an effort to ensure
that Zimbabwe's problems are managed continentally. In the final
analysis, the problems of Zimbabwe will have to be managed
So SADC has set itself up to be the final arbiter of the
forthcoming poll, and would seem to have walked neatly into yet
another trap set by Robert Mugabe. In essence, the trap is very
simple: you can only judge on what you see. So the Zimbabwe
Government plays the SADC Principles and Guidelines with a very
fine sense of judgement, leaving SADC reeling in its wake.
On the one hand, the Government states baldly that these are only
guidelines and principles, and not a legally binding instrument:
every sovereign state will apply the principles and guidelines
within the context of its own constitution and political situation.
Hence observers must judge not in some absolute manner, but
relatively according to these constraints. For example, Zimbabwe
has constituencies and a first-past-the-post model, not
proportional representation, and thus postal votes are very
difficult to incorporate in this model.
But, on the other hand, the Zimbabwe Government applies the
Principles and Guidelines very legalistically over the matter of
observers. According to these principles, a government shall invite
observers if it sees fit, and such observers need only be present
2 weeks before the poll. It is desirable that they be present 90
days before the poll, but the minimum requirement is 2 weeks, and
the Zimbabwe Government looks like making this minimum stick.
So it seems that SADC will be forced into giving this poll the
thumbs up, if only because they will not be present in the country
long enough to satisfactorily observe the pre-election process.
Furthermore, since they have studiously refrained from commenting
on all the many adverse aspects of Zimbabwean political life in the
past, they will be unable to draw on their own previous knowledge
if they want to maintain face. SADC will be unable to comment on
the effects of sustained political violence on an electorate if it
has not previously admitted their existence. Indeed, the President
of Tanzania has already denied that violence has been a problem,
and this notwithstanding the report of the African Commission on
Human and Peoples' Rights now adopted by the AU.
As the introduction to the SADC Principles and Guidelines puts it:
the SADC region has made significant strides in the consolidation
of the citizens' participation in the decision-making processes and
consolidation of democratic practice and institutions. It was the
denial of citizen participation that led to the many struggles in
Southern Africa, and to the liberation of all Southern African
countries from colonial and racist regimes. Zimbabwe now provides
an important test of the commitment expressed above, and all are
watching to see whether SADC will expand this commitment to ensure
full participation of Zimbabweans in their choice of government. Or
will SADC founder on the rock of narrow interpretations of national
sovereignty, and another bright new African start be dulled by
misplaced solidarity with an elite out of step with its people?
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