SADC Urged to Censure Mugabe for Power Grab

Washington, DC – The Southern African Development Community must break its silence and publicly condemn Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for provocative actions that have endangered a power-sharing agreement negotiated by SADC envoy Thabo Mbeki. A strong SADC statement that outlines potential disciplinary measures is needed to strengthen Mbeki’s hand as he prepares for crisis talks this week between Mugabe and his rivals.

On Saturday, Mugabe declared that he would keep all the key ministries for his ZANU-PF party, prompting opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to threaten to pull out of the national unity government. Tsvangirai’s MDC party has negotiated with ZANU-PF for weeks over ministries such as defense, finance, home and foreign affairs which are essential to Zimbabwe’s recovery. In another blow to the power-sharing process, Mugabe swore in his two vice presidents today.

“Mugabe’s unilateral actions show a lack of good faith and contempt for the power-sharing agreement that SADC negotiated,” said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. “With their authority challenged, SADC members should take off the kid gloves and threaten to suspend Mugabe and freeze his party’s assets.”

Freedom House is deeply concerned that ZANU-PF intends to drag out the negotiations even as millions of Zimbabweans face starvation. Mbeki should have every tool at his disposal to broker a true power-sharing deal that resolves these outstanding issues so that Zimbabwe can quickly address its economic and humanitarian crises.

After 28 years in power, ZANU-PF lost to the MDC in parliamentary elections and came in second in the presidential vote in March. ZANU-PF supporters reacted by waging a deadly crackdown against the MDC in the lead up to the June presidential runoff between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, forcing Tsvangirai to withdraw from the race. – Freedom House (Washington, DC)