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Zimbabwe: Cautious optimism for unity government

NewsNotes, March-April 2009

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in on February 11 as prime minister in a unity government with President Robert Mugabe, following months of political tensions after disputed presidential elections last March.

In response, the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance said that they “welcomed with cautious optimism the finalization of the SADC led talks which opens the way to the implementation of the Global Political Agreement and the formation of a Government of National Unity.

“We realize that this is not a triumph of African solutions and principles but a reproach because it indicates that the voice of the people as stated democratically through the ballot box in March 2008 has not been recognized or respected.

“It is our sincere hope and prayer, however, that God Almighty will intervene and this transitional arrangement will lead to real democracy and consequently to justice, reconciliation, peace and prosperity to our troubled land. At present the people of Zimbabwe are rather suspicious and anxious. They need confidence building measures to be put in place to indicate sincerity and the political will to transform the country.

“We as representatives of the Christian constituency are anxious to see that this agreement works. The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough.  We would, therefore, like to see a number of actions by the inclusive government to prove that they hold the welfare and the interests of the people of Zimbabwe above their own political power.  We would like to see

  • the rule of law established in the country immediately and all political prisoners released forthwith
  • measures be taken to reform arms of government to be apolitical in their delivery of services
  • that the NGOs be free to distribute food and other commodities without interference from government
  • that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe return to its original mandate of keeping the resources and distributing them as directed by the government instead of meddling in politics and serving partisan interests
  • that the framework of issues of transitional justice and reconciliation be worked out together with the Church to heal the cancer at the heart of the nation
  • that the constitutional reform process  is commenced as per schedule contained in Amendment 19  and that the process  will allow the people of Zimbabwe to contribute meaningfully to the constitution making process.”

On February 12, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on Zimbabwe’s new Government of National Unity to restore immediately the rule of law and address abuses committed over the course of the recent political crisis.

Pillay voiced concern over the disappearance of opposition officials, the reported use of torture to extract false confessions and infringements of the independence of the judiciary. She noted that undue pressure had been put on the judiciary to keep several people, including human rights activist Jestina Mukoko and journalist Shadreck Anderson Manyere, as well as members of the opposition, in custody.

She called on the new government to meet its obligations under international law, including the prohibition of torture and respect for the independence of the judiciary. 

Concern was also expressed over the “politicization” of the police and their failure to undertake credible investigations and arrests of individuals alleged to have committed serious violations during the election violence in June and July. These include hundreds of cases of alleged summary executions, torture and sexual violence, including rape, the great majority of which are believed to have been carried out by supporters of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Faith in action:

The African Union (AU) will serve as guarantor for this new government.  It is critical that they take immediate action to ensure Zimbabwe’s unity government takes steps in the right direction. Go here to sign a petition calling on the newly-elected African Union chairman Muammar Gaddafi to ensure that the African Union executes its role as guarantor of the new Zimbabwe unity government.

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