CIVIL society organisations led by the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will tomorrow stage a protest march against President Robert Mugabe’s presence at the Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit which starts in Johannesburg today.
The call for protest against Mugabe was made by Cosatu Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi on Tuesday during a conference convened by the civil society to discuss the deepening political crisis in Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
“We call on Cosatu members in Gauteng, as well as all progressive civil society formations and other freedom lovers to join us to register our disgust at his (Mugabe) presence through a march we are organising for August 16,” Vavi told the conference.
The militant civil society groups who are advocating the total isolation of Mugabe would present petitions to the Sadc leaders not to recognise Mugabe as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe.
At the Tuesday press conference, Vavi deplored the violence that characterised the period leading to the internationally condemned “one-man” June 27 presidential election run-off.
Vavi said: “The human rights abuses in Zimbabwe have scaled new heights. The beatings of ordinary people, the burning down of their property, the killings and torture continue as though the current negotiations mean nothing to the illegal Mugabe regime.”
The Cosatu leader reiterated that the June election was illegitimate and therefore nobody should recognise its outcome.
He said the proposed new government’s role would be to prepare for a fresh round of elections that would adhere to the Sadc election protocols.
“Let us again state that we support the ongoing efforts to negotiate a political settlement to the Zimbabwe crisis.
“We accordingly wish President Thabo Mbeki and the other facilitators of these negotiations together with all parties involved good luck and success as they try to find lasting solutions to the Zimbabwe crisis.
“We must however hurry to say we will not give these negotiations unconditional support,” said Vavi. “Any settlement that does not recognise the will of the people as expressed in the March 29 elections will not be acceptable. It will represent an elite accord that can never enjoy legitimacy in the eyes of the ordinary people of Zimbabwe.”
Vavi said Cosatu would continue fighting for the freedom of Zimbabwean and Swaziland workers.
Zimbabwe’s National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (Nango) spokesman Fambai Ngirande yesterday said local civil society groups have lined up a number of initiatives to remind Sadc leaders of their obligations to promote democracy and good governance in Southern Africa.
He said: “We are in support of Cosatu and will be participating in the march on Saturday as well as a host of other initiatives to raise awareness of the threats to democratisation that the Zimbabwe situation represents for the region as a whole.”
Ngirande lamented the failure by Sadc to protect and enforce its own standards on democracy and free and fair elections, which have been trashed by the Zimbabwean government during the recent general and presidential elections.
By Lucia Makamure