The Human Rights Defenders Coalition HRDC has cautioned President Lazarus Chakwera against skirting around on issues of Human Rights and Safeguarding the civic space among the Southern African Development Community SADC member states, once he assumes the leadership as chairperson of the regional block.
Before the SADC annual summit for heads of state and government was held virtually on Monday, Director for East and Southern Africa human rights body, Amnesty International Deprose Muchena, made a special appeal to the leaders.
Muchena said, “A number of countries in the SADC region are experiencing alarming human rights violations and abuses threatening peace and stability and hindering the response to COVID-19. In Zimbabwe, authorities have stepped up a crackdown on dissenting voices with state security forces unleashed on activists, human rights defenders, journalists and opposition supporters".
Ironically, the leaders skirted around the issues in the region only to celebrate the 40 years of SADC existence and paying special tribute to the founding fathers.
HRDC National Coordinator Luke Tembo expressed dissatisfaction with how the SADC heads of State avoided denouncing the Zimbabwe crackdown by security agencies.
“We don’t want SADC to be reduced to a talk show where we don’t see tangible results. Of what benefit will SADC be to its citizens if it does not take its rightful role is making sure that countries and leaders from the member states respect the rule of law and human rights” Tembo said.
However, President Lazarus Chakwera a rookie in SADC has chosen to play it safe on the foreign policy matters.
His press secretary Brian Banda told us, Chakwera will engage the Zimbabwean leader Emerson Mnangagwa through diplomatic channels.
“The president is treating the matter in Zimbabwe as an internal matter there, He is using diplomatic channels to engage the Zimbabwean president, it’s the presidents (Chakwera’s) intention not to add fuel to an already intense situation” said Banda.
Before being elected president, Chakwera was seemingly an ardent human rights defender as on several occasions he took part in street protests, over perceived poor governance and human rights abuses by his predecessor Peter Mutharika.