Zimbabweans fight while SADC Watches in Silence: A Call to Action

Cape Town, South Africa

The following statement will be run in a least one major newspaper in every country in the SADC region and in at least 2 South African papers. To add your support to this statement (either as an individual or as an organisation) mail your support to Roshnee Narrandes (roshneen@osisa.org) Deadline: 14 March 2007 at 16h00.
NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT, THE FUTURE OF ZIMBABWE IS AT

STAKE

Zimbabweans fight while SADC Watches in Silence: A Call to Action

We represent the many people within SADC who believe in lasting and democratic solutions to the crisis in Zimbabwe. We issue this open letter to all citizens of this region, and in particular to our heads of state and "state" in this glossary). As a general rule, "government" should not be capitalised.

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, members of parliament in the respective countries and senior leaders within the SADC and African Union Secretariats to take urgent action to end the crisis in Zimbabwe.

We learned with shock and dismay of the Zimbabwe state's attack on its citizens on Sunday 11 March 2007 which resulted in the death of Gift Tandare. We are horrified to learn of the arrest and detention of dozens of civil society, church and opposition parties leaders at a peaceful prayer meeting that took place the same day.

Their subsequent detention without access to legal counsel and appropriate medical attention is cause for great concern.

We are outraged that not a single state within SADC and the AU has issued a statement decrying the situation and calling for the restoration of, and respect for, human rights in Zimbabwe.

For almost a decade the people of Zimbabwe have suffered under the unjust regime of Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. Freedom of expression and assembly have been severely curtailed, virtually all independent media outlets have been shut down, and thousands of people have been dispossessed by an increasingly

desperate party and its ruler.

For many years Zimbabwean activists have mounted protest actions and demonstrations, and have made it clear to the world that they aspire to live under a democratic dispensation. Using non-violent means, the people of Zimbabwe have used all legitimate structures at their disposal: the courts, their parliament and the media, with

little or no effect.

Today, in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, we, the people of this region, must say that enough is enough. Our governments cannot continue to ignore this situation. Millions of Zimbabweans are displaced and are no longer able to live in their once prosperous nation. Millions more within Zimbabwe are hungry, sick and unable to

access basic services.

If action is not taken now at the highest levels, there will be blood on the hands of all those states whose silence has aided and abetted Mugabe's regime. The time for a softly-softly approach ­ if there ever was on is over.

Those who defend Mugabe imply that his opponents seek to overthrow the Mugabe regime. This is simply untrue. We firmly believe that the future of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of Zimbabweans themselves. The future of Zimbabwe lies in national constitutional talks, in free and fair elections and in a return to the respect of human rights principles. The role of the regional and continental community is to facilitate this process.

We therefore demand regional and continental intervention to ensure:

1. Freedom of assembly, expression, opinion and association are respected;

2. The media are allowed to operate freely;

3. That the looming humanitarian crisis that prevents Zimbabweans from accessing basic social services including food "African journalists trained in how to communicate securely online" (APCNews and Toni Eliasz, 30 September 2004), Take Back the Tech! and APC Internet Rights Charter">security

, health care,

water and sanitation, be averted.

We therefore urgently call upon all heads of state and government in SADC to ensure the following:

1. An independent investigation into the death of Gift Tandare on 11 March 2007 following the police shooting in Highfield;

2. The release of all political detainees in custody since the prayer meeting on 11 March 2007;

3. Provision of quality medical attention to all those in custody;

4. Access to legal counsel by all those in custody;

5. Speedy resolution of this situation by the courts and compliance with court orders by the police.

Furthermore, we insist that African governments use bilateral and multilateral means such as the SADC, African Union and the United Nations to urgently appoint and dispatch a high-level team of eminent persons to:

1. Assess the situation on the ground in order to prevent more shootings and harm to the general public,

2. Develop a sustainable and inclusive diplomatic solution to the crisis;

3. The holding of all-party inclusive talks.

NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT, THE FUTURE OF ZIMBABWE IS AT

STAKE

THE PEOPLE OF SADC

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