VICTORIA FALLS - Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been urged to address human rights violations among its member states as part of its measures to improve the lives of its people.
Three human rights organisations, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch this week put the spotlight on human rights concerns in countries such as Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The latter is taking over as chair of the regional body at its 34th Summit of Heads of State and Government in Victoria Falls this weekend.
The regional bloc was criticised for its laxity on making human rights compliance within its member states a priority, further stating that it is important to address the issue for the sake of its reputation. The organisations further states that SADC should press for human rights improvement across the sub-region, especially under Zimbabwe's leadership.
“To achieve the SADC Summit theme of economic transformation, Zimbabwe and other countries in the region should promote good governance, uphold the rule of law and respect human rights,” said Tiseke Kasambala, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Genuine transparency and justice will help drive the regional economic development that improves people’s lives.”
"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 and state institutions do not live up to the regional and international best practices," said Irene Petras, Director, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
"Human rights are central to achieve sustainable economic development and regional integration," said Deprose Muchena, Southern Africa director at Amnesty International. Muchena further noted that SADC should strive to create conditions for all to enjoy their economic, social, civil, and political rights. SADC leadership must respond to the real needs of ordinary people and vigorously implement regional and international human rights standards.
The human rights organisations are of the view that even as Zimbabwe takes over the chair of SADC for the next year, the country is enforcing laws that violate fundamental human rights protected under the May 2013 constitution. Nor has there been any move toward justice for past political violence.
The organisations further said Zimbabwe's leadership is also failing to address fundamental economic and social rights. For instance, many people in Harare have little access to potable water and sanitation services, violating their right to water, sanitation, and health. In the country's diamond fields, greater transparency is needed on diamond production, revenue and the allocation of mining rights.