Dubbed “The Escalating Zimbabwe Crisis-A demand for socio-economic and political transformation” the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum which is coordinated by Action Support Centre, saw over 80 participants, from progressive South African civil society organizations, including youth, women, labour, faith-based, human rights and student formations as well as regional delegates from Zambia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Botswana discussing the Zimbabwean issue. One of the objectives of the Summit was to deepen understanding of the impact of the Zimbabwe Crisis, in Zimbabwe and the region, the outcome developed strategies for transformation and to develop collective solidarity messaging on the Zimbabwe crisis and way forward. Most importantly, the outcome would be to develop strategies that inform practical regional and local solidarity actions that will impact positively on the material, social and political lives of Zimbabweans, informed by past solidarity actions.
The key note address commented that as such the ZSF remains relevant, credible and influential for those at the receiving end of suffering. The Solidarity Summit would provide participants operating at different levels with an opportunity to interact, network and share perspectives as this discussion was taking place against the backdrop of recent and ongoing events in Zimbabwe which urgently called for action plans in a purposeful manner.
There is a looming human rights abuse crisis in Zimbabwe following massive police brutality against demonstrators such as the informal traders, unemployed young people and, professional people who have taken to the streets in urban centres across Zimbabwe to protest against job losses, mass unemployment and the government’s failure to meet people’s basic economic expectation. Mr. Okay Machisa who heads ZimRights an organization working on the ground shared his deep concern over civil unrest based on unpopular government policies for example its unilateral decision to introduce bond notes and import bans from South Africa; which has led to continued protests being thwarted by police as well as the government’s interference with the independence of the judiciary.
Professor Raftopolous alluded to the deepening crisis by saying that post-colonial states and liberation movements that come into power face the challenges of developing sustainable institutions that can deliver sovereignty, economic distribution and democratization. This is the crisis in ZANU Pf after 3 decades in power they have failed to build accountable institutions while at the same time, trying to transform the economy.
Elinor Sisulu castigated MDC’s lack of post-election engagement with victims of election violence, operation Murambatsvina, and people who went into exile. She said that there were no efforts made to address the losses and trauma that people went through. Hence her disappointment of MDC of entering into government of national unity in 2009, which was a fatal mistake of getting into the GNU and dropping the human rights issue. She urged people to be critical thinkers who propose things that mobilize people and make people conscious such as setting up memorials for the victims named above.
Ambassador Nhlapo denounced responses by states that when the general populace undertakes service delivery protests the police is unleashed on them. He suggested that instead the governments should find appropriate ways of engaging with the protesters, who would have voted them into power hence they should be ready to be accountable and deliver what they would have promised to the people.
The participants in various working groups discussed the various challenges that Zimbabweans were facing and some these included; general food security and partisan distribution of food aid; collapsed healthcare system; lack of civic and political rights; violation of fundamental rights such as the right to vote, freedom of associations and expression and media freedom. Some of the key action plans that were proposed by participants are to prepare documents of massive human rights abuses for submission to regional and international institutions such as Amnesty International, African Commission on Human and People’s rights; organizing exchange visits between countries to enable people-to-people contact at grassroots level, regular press briefing outside Zimbabwe and fundraising to support families of activists in prisons, and those abducted; contribute towards bail money, and for rapid response. In addition to approach regional civil society organizations to mobilize in their countries and demonstrate at relevant institutions; and massive demonstration with the people of Zimbabwe living in South Africa.
In line with this, strengthening and coalition building was emphasized by the Chairperson of ZSF who believes that efforts to unite and harmonies regional solidarity activities of different structures should be encouraged, through the principle of building a coordinating structure that will bring together all the solidarity initiatives and activities to maximise cohesion and avoid competition and in some instances duplication of activities that could be done collectively.