Zimbabwe’s commitment to Democratic Principles

Two weeks ago Mugabe signed the SADC protocols on democratic principles. In this he committed himself to the basic things that all go towards holding free and fair elections. MDC has suspended all involvement in elections until the Mugabe regime implements the agreements they have just signed up to. What signs do we have that they are going to fulfill their new obligations? So far the record is totally in the opposite direction.

They are proceeding with the NGO Bill. Despite all the protests and the clear evidence that this Bill violates many fundamental rights and democratic principles, the State has defended the Bill in large adverts placed with the national press. This Bill will further restrict all democratic space.

Last week they forcibly broke up an NGO demonstration in Harare with many arrests. On Monday they raided (without a search warrant) the MDC offices in Bulawayo searching for subversive materials. This is the latest of many such arbitrary actions and is clearly designed to intimidate in advance of a major rally in Bulawayo on Sunday.

On Tuesday - at night, they arrested the Chairman of the NCA and held him for 12 hours in Police cells. He was released without charge.
On Wednesday they unilaterally announced that they were going ahead with new legislation covering the future elections - these new regulations are a totally unacceptable attempt to modify the rules for the electoral process without correcting any of the fundamental problems inherent in the Zimbabwe system.

Yesterday, the MP for Kuwadzana, Nelson Chamisa was holding a small (8 persons) meeting of members of MDC in his constituency. He was arrested and the meeting broken up. He is at present being held in Police cells where there are no facilities, no food and no civil rights.

This is all in the past few days - they add up to a serious pattern of total disregard for democratic principles. SADC leaders must now consider just what to do about these violations of the new accords. They cannot ignore what is happening here.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 8th September 2004.