By Tatenda Dewa
The London-based Zimbabwe Vigil, a pressure group protesting President Robert Mugabe’s continued rule, last week petitioned the current chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Ian Khama who is also the president of Botswana.
The vigil delivered its petition to the Botswana High Commission in London, calling on SADC to intervene in Zimbabwe’s economic and political crisis.
The economic crisis that resurged in 2013 following controversial elections won by Zanu PF has been worsening amid a biting cash crunch, little public revenue and a clampdown on human rights defenders ahead of the 2018 general elections.
Disgruntlement is rising within the general populace, civil servants and the security sector as government struggles to pay salaries on time.
The pressure group which has been lobbying for respect for human rights and better governance for the last 14 years, said in a report that it met a senior diplomat who promised to take the petition to Khama who replaced Mugabe as the SADC chair in 2015.
“With the army going unpaid while the government tries to find the money, the Vigil delivered a petition to the Botswana High Commission in London calling for the help of the Southern African Development Community to avert disaster in Zimbabwe,” said Zimbabwe Vigil.
The group said Botswana was providing a “model of good governance” which Zimbabwe must emulate and thanked Khama’s government for accepting an influx of economic refugees over the years.
“We are grateful for your patience in the face of the influx of Zimbabwean refugees and other problems we have caused you as our country’s economy collapsed. You have been a true friend and we will not forget your solidarity with our suffering people,” wrote the vigil.
Former Botswana president, Festus Mogae, recently said statesmen must not persecute their people and hide behind sovereignty while regarding themselves as indispensable, in a veiled reference to Mugabe, 92, who has been in power since independence in 1980.
“We (Zimbabwe Vigil) fear that our country could be torn apart as President Mugabe clings to office into his nineties with no designated successor,” noted the pressure group in the petition that it said had been signed by thousands of people from around the world.
It noted that systematic political violence was on the rise.
“We wish to alert you (Khama) to alarming threats by the military in Zimbabwe to employ violence against people opposed to the Zanu PF regime.
“The threats come amid worsening splits in the party and rising popular outrage at the demolition of the homes of the poor and the imposition of pre-paid water meters for an unreliable supply,” said the vigil.
It accused the commander of the Presidential Guard, Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, of threatening a new political party, Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF), for opposing Mugabe’s rule.
He is reported to have recently told the guard: “Professionalism is over . . . Zanu PF should rule forever.”
Mujuru was fired from Zanu PF where she was Mugabe’s deputy on allegations of plotting to unseat him, subsequently setting up ZimPF.
“Bad governance has destroyed the economy, reducing people to desperation while the ruling elite drive past in their luxury cars from their mansions to the expensive restaurants. There is growing resentment. Provocative moves by the military could cause an explosion of anger. We call on SADC to prepare to intervene to stop a meltdown,” said the Zimbabwe Vigil.
The vigil delegation comprised Alfredy Mukuvare, Anna Pfende, Cephas Maswoswa, Chipo Kamhunga, Chipo Parirenyatwa, Deborah Harry, Dennis Benton, Eldridge Culverwell, Esther Munyira, John Burke, Percy Dube, Rose Benton and Rosemary Maponga. Nehanda Radio