Quiet diplomacy is not working

05 February 2019 | International

SADC's quiet diplomacy is not helping the situation in Zimbabwe and the regional body must publicly condemn the human rights violations and address the legitimacy of Emmerson Mnangagwa's presidency and the ailing Zimbabwean economy, analysts say.

The country was plunged into chaos in January following an unprecedented fuel price increase, an internet blackout and widespread human rights violations. Zimbabwean economics professor John Robertson yesterday described the situation in Zimbabwe as “messy”. He said fuel prices remain high and a loaf of bread now costs US$2.30 (N$30), making life extremely difficult for the ordinary Zimbabwean. He added that they expected the central bank to make a decision to stabilise prices.

“There is an instability caused by a lack of a good pricing system. We don't have our own currency and exchange rates against the US dollar are very uncertain. And the people who have US dollars are unsure of the rates. There is a lot of instability,” he said.

According to him there are demands for higher pay, which is tricky because employers cannot afford to raise wages amidst the economic crisis.

When asked whether human rights violations continued in Zimbabwe he said: “It appears so.”

The country's security forces are widely accused of gross human rights violations, some captured on video clips posted on social media.

The army and police have also been accused of raping women in recent weeks.

On Monday a new video surfaced of soldiers beating women in the streets of Harare.

Local social commentator Dr Admire Mare rejected claims from local media that things have returned to normal in Zimbabwe.

In fact, he said, they did not even see this kind of brutality during the regime of former president Robert Mugabe.

“Things are not normal. It is really unheard of. I think we have gone beyond Mugabe. As much as he was bad, as much as he failed, I think he was not brutal. We have reached a certain level of brutally that Zimbabweans have never seen,” he said.

Legitimacy of presidency

Mare believes the main factor behind Zimbabwe's social and economic crisis is the legitimacy of the president's rule.

“There are so many people who voted for the opposition who still don't believe the incumbent won fairly. And because of that people are not investing in the country because they feel something really went wrong in terms of the elections.

“And those who have the money in Zimbabwe are not prepared to put the money in the economy because they feel the person who ultimately was declared the winner is not the one who won the election,” he said.

In an interview with the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation President Hage Geingob said SADC leaders were consulting and he cannot just make announcements and decisions on his own.

Geingob, who is the current SADC chairperson, said he was in contact with the regional heads of state.

“You see, what I have done as chairman is to establish personal relations. I can tell you since I took over I have the direct telephone numbers of about ten presidents. Even on the Zimbabwean question, they say I am quiet.

“But when President Mnangagwa came back he called me and he told me what he was going to do. We are interacting. As a chairperson you cannot just deny on behalf of your country, other countries must be consulted,” said Geingob.

SADC has long been accused of handling the Zimbabwean situation with kid gloves.

Quiet diplomacy

Mare also believes that the Zimbabwe issue requires an open discourse and that quiet diplomacy is not taking them anywhere.

He acknowledged that he was aware of talks between SADC leaders.

“I think Zimbabweans are tired of it. They don't see how it works; they have not seen it work anywhere. So they would rather want a situation where you condemn something when it happens rather than keeping quiet and hoping that things will be fine,” said Mare.


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