MDC Message on Commonwealth Day

On the occasion of the Commonwealth Day today, the MDC takes note of the failure by the Harare regime to implement comprehensive reforms to expedite the readmission of Zimbabwe in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Zimbabwe, a member of the Commonwealth since April 1980, was suspended in March 2002 following the discredited 2002 Presidential Election that was marred by political violence and election irregularities. A Troika of Commonwealth leaders that included the then President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo and Prime Minister of Australia announced the suspension.

Zimbabwe was accused of breaching the Harare Declaration of 1991 which was a commitment by member states to fundamental principles. These include liberty, equality of citizens regardless of gender, race, creed and political beliefs, inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political processes, independence of the judiciary, respect for human rights, democracy and rule of law among others. Zimbabwe subsequently withdrew its membership from the Commonwealth in 2003.

Whilst the Harare regime has formally expressed interest in rejoining the Commonwealth, it has not addressed the concerns raised at the point of suspension. Zimbabwe has held successive disputed elections characterized by political violence and uneven playing field. The recent 2018 elections were marred by intimidation, the harvest of fear, biased state media, partisan state institutions, a partisan Electoral Management Body and abuse of state resources among other irregularities.

The Harare regime continues to violate human rights with impunity. In August 2018, six unarmed citizens were shot dead by the military. In January 2019 and 17 extrajudicial killings were conducted. The regime has intensified persecution of human rights defenders and opposition leaders and members through abductions, arbitrary arrests, trumped up charges and prohibition of opposition activities.

The regime has also failed to institute reforms such as media reforms, aligning laws to the Constitution, electoral reforms, security sector reforms, economic reforms including to end corruption and patronage. In cases where new laws have been enacted, the objective has been to curtail rather than promote freedoms. A case in point is the Maintanance of Order and Peace Act (MOPA) that maintained the stringent measures of its predecessor: Public Order and Security Act (POSA) including criminalisation of people who fail to notify the police when they convene public gatherings and maintained police power to prohibit public gatherings. Whilst the regime is yet to align the laws to the Constitution of 2013, the regime is already proposing 27 amendments to the Constitution that are aimed at creating an imperial President including a provision for the President appoint 2 more Non- Constituency Ministers and judges without public interviews.

The MDC urges the regime to demonstrate commitment to Commonwealth principles through instituting comprehensive economic and political reforms such as electoral reforms, respecting human rights and the Constitution of the land so as to enhance chances for Zimbabwe being readmitted into the Commonwealth. The current lip- service to the reform agenda to deceive the international community is ill advised.

Only real reforms are needed to get Zimbabwe back in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Gladys Kudzaishe Hlatywayo

Secretary for International Relations