AFRICAN civil society leaders are pressing for the appointment of a Pan-African panel of eminent persons to intervene in the Zimbabwean political crisis triggered by delays and refusals by authorities to release results of last month’s presidential election.
The civic leaders, among them lawyers, trade unionists and academics, met in Dar es Salaam this week and challenged the African Union (AU) to appoint a panel of eminent persons to tackle the Zimbabwe crisis.
The meeting was organised by the East Africa Law Society, Open Society Initiative for East Africa, and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.
In a communiquÃ© released after the meeting, which was characterised by emotional pleas for the international community to intervene in Zimbabwe, the civic leaders asked the AU to send a team of eminent persons to lead an initiative to resolve the southern African country’s crisis.
The communiquÃ© was later presented to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.
The civil society leaders said the AU should intervene in Zimbabwe in line with the organisation’s constitutive laws which provide the continental group with the right to intervene in a member state when certain violations are perpetrated by the state.
“We call on the African Union to protect the Zimbabwean population against the military and paramilitary retribution that communities are currently being subjected to for voting President Mugabe out of office,” the communiquÃ© read.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Ellenor Sisulu, from the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition said Zimbabweans were currently witnessing a state of organised political violence.
Sisulu told the gathering that dozens of people had been injured while thousands of others had been displaced as a result of the political violence.
Pictures of brutalised Zimbabweans were screened during the meeting to show the magnitude of injuries sustained by opposition supporters.
“Zimbabweans are witnessing a state of organised violence where we have seen people being injured while others are displaced as a result of the destruction of their properties,” Sisulu said.
“The major crisis we face right now is a humanitarian crisis and what we need is for the civic society to help put a stop to the violence.”
She, however, bemoaned the lack of condemnation of the violence by African leaders and urged civic organisations on the continent to play a pivotal role in exerting pressure on the leaders to speak out on the Zimbabwean situation.
Wilfred Mhanda of the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform told the meeting that Mugabe had militarised state institutions and, therefore, it was difficult for Zimbabweans to deal with the situation on their own.
“African leaders and the EU and even the UN should speak out on Mugabe and the big problem is that Mugabe and his government are at war with the people of Zimbabwe.
They have stolen an election, are perpetrating violence and there is the issue of the illegitimacy of the Zimbabwean government,” Mhanda said.
The civil society leaders said there is currently a blocked process in Zimbabwe with Zanu PF attempting to stay in power through coercion.
Participants at the one-day meeting were drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Botswana, Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Others came from Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland and South Africa.
While the civil society leaders were meeting in Tanzania, doctors and human rights groups in Zimbabwe reported an increase in political violence against opposition MDC supporters allegedly being perpetrated by government security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights reported that since April it has attended to 323 people assaulted and tortured by security forces, Zanu PF militia and war veterans.
By Loughty Dube