Southern Africa: Civil Society Lobbies Region on Zimbabwe Polls

Representatives from Zimbabwean civil society are gathering in Malawi this week hoping to force the election crisis back home onto the agenda of Saturday’s summit of regional heads of state.

The SADC Heads of State and Government Summit officially opens on Saturday in Lilongwe. Presidents and leaders from across the region are expected to start arriving in the city on Thursday evening, and on Friday the first top level meeting of the SADC Troika will get underway.

There is still no official confirmation that Zimbabwe’s current elections crisis will be discussed outside the agenda of the meeting, a draft of which does not indicate that the subject will be raised. A media official from the SADC team told SW Radio Africa that this will be up to SADC leaders when they meet this weekend.

The Director of the Troika, Lieutenant Colonel Tankie Mothae, has also reportedly said that Zimbabwe is not part of the agenda. In his briefing to members of the press on Tuesday, Mothae said as SADC they are ‘satisfied’ with their participation and involvement during the polls.

“We do not have anything on the agenda which will specifically tackle the issue of the polls recently held in Zimbabwe. What we will discuss will be what is on the general agenda and that is the general review of the political situation in the country,” he said.

Civil society members from across the region in the meantime have been piling pressure on the regional leadership to address the Zimbabwe situation. Last weekend, more than 30 SADC nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) gathered in Botswana for crisis talks and agreed to petition the regional leaders for Zimbabwe to be tabled at the upcoming Malawi summit.

That petition comes as most of the SADC member states have congratulated Mugabe on his electoral victory, and urged the opposition to accept the poll outcome. This is despite mounting evidence of electoral fraud that the MDC-T is using in its legal case challenging the election outcome.

Among the civil society groups gathered in Malawi this week is the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, which on Thursday hosted a meeting with other NGO members from the region in Lilongwe.

Crisis Coalition spokesperson Thabani Nyoni told SW Radio Africa that SADC member states “have given the impression that they will just give the Zimbabwe elections the thumbs up and then move on.”

“Civil society is in a pensive mood here, because there is so much speculation as to whether Zimbabwe will be on the agenda. But we are involved in a lot of initiatives which are happening to try and have the issue put on the agenda by leaders,” Nyoni said.

This includes presenting the SADC secretariat with the ‘joint civil society position’ on the elections, as well as finalising the petition calling for Zimbabwe to be put on the agenda. This will take place during a ‘People’s Summit’ of civil society members on Friday.

Nyoni said that the civil society groups will also then stage a demonstration at the site of the SADC Heads of State summit in Lilongwe on Saturday, where they will also hand over their final petition.