Zimbabwe Must Seek Human-Rights Focus as SADC Chair, Groups Say

Zimbabwe should respect its own constitution if it wants to have credibility as head of the Southern African Development Community, activist groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will take over rotating chairmanship of SADC at an annual summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on Aug. 17-18. Mugabe should use that position to pursue a human-rights agenda including addressing abuses in his own nation, Angola, Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia, the groups, along with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said.

“SADC’s commitment to human rights will come into question if Zimbabwe, as chair of the regional body, does not expedite the process of aligning its laws with the constitution,” said Irene Petras, director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, according to the statement.

In Zimbabwe, there’s a lack of transparency about who benefits from diamond mining and the government has failed to improve access to water and sanitation or provide justice for past political violence, the groups said. Mediators backed by SADC forced Mugabe into a unity government with the Movement for Democratic Change after a 2008 vote marred by violence. Their coalition government ended at elections last year.

No one answered the phone at the offices of Information Minister Jonathan Moyo or presidential spokesman George Charamba when Bloomberg called seeking comment.

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