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ZUNDE challenges SADC to learn from The Gambia

By Justice Benjamin Paradza

There has been a paradigm shift in African governance with African states intervening to safeguard and implement the democratic election result in The Gambia.

Former judge in Zimbabwe Justice Benjamin Paradza
Former judge in Zimbabwe Justice Benjamin Paradza

Swift, decisive action by ECOWAS (The Economic Community of West African States) has ensured that President Yahya Jammeh has relinquished power so that the legitimately and newly-elected President, Adama Barrow can take office.

This paradigm shift means that it is no longer dictatorship as usual in Africa. There is new respect for people’s democratic vote and ECOWAS has set a new benchmark for African governance to which other organisations such as SADC (The Southern African Development Community) must now conform.

There were three elements in the triumph of democracy in The Gambia:

  1. The citizens were successfully engaged in the political process and were mobilised to vote;
  2. The opposition parties put aside their petty differences and combined to present a united front;
  3. There has been solidarity and decisive action by countries in the region;

and there we have the blueprint for removing the dictatorship in Zimbabwe.

ZUNDE is at the forefront of the Register Now and Vote in 2018 campaign to engage and mobilise the Zimbabwean populace.

Since our inception in 2013, ZUNDE has been ceaselessly working to form a united opposition and we are heartened by the fact that the major opposition parties have heard us and are now taking up our message.

However, SADC has a poor track record when it comes to acting with the solidarity and decisiveness that will be required in 2018.

SADC stood by when crisis hit the DRC in 1998-89 allowing a corrupt Mugabe to move in and declare war without the authority of Parliament.

While SADC was instrumental in the negotiations that led to a relatively peaceful run-up to the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe, they stood by ineffectually during the five-week delay in announcing the result of the presidential election which it is now generally agreed was won by Morgan Tsvangirai. SADC failed to act when violence erupted after a run-off election was called and Tsvangirai fled to neighbouring Botswana in fear of his life. True, the subsequent SADC-sponsored Government of National Unity staved off Zimbabwe’s imminent implosion in 2008 but the country’s fundamental crisis in governance continues.

ECOWAS has raised the bar for the Mediation Unit of SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation whose mandate is to deal with conflicts within and among member states. SADC must learn from and emulate the authority and decisiveness of ECOWAS.

President Ian Khama of Botswana has emerged as a true leader who can take SADC in the right direction. Last Thursday, the Government of Botswana declared it would no longer recognise Yahya Jammeh and his government following his refusal to hand over executive power after the expiration of his mandate. Botswana was the first country to openly denounce Jammeh’s continued stay in power contrary to what they described as the “expressed will of the Gambian people.” It is Botswana that is giving the lead to SADC to stand on the side of the people.

So far SADC has not said a word about the events in The Gambia and that is worrying. It is difficult to imagine what is going on in the minds of those running SADC and their silence is not helping at all. If SADC is for the people,now is the time to come outand openly say so, otherwise SADC will continue to look like a club that is meant to perpetuate the repressive regimes that have come out of former liberation movements.

An official statement by Zimbabweans United for Democracy published under the authority of Justice Benjamin Paradza, Exiled Judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe and President of ZUNDE.