A Botswana coalition of civil society organisations has condemned police brutality in Zimbabwe and urged Ian Khama, the Southern African Development Community chairperson, to intervene
Khama is also the president of Botswana and has in the past broken ranks with the majority of the SADC membership to openly criticise President Robert Mugabe’s rule.
“The Botswana Civil Society Solidarity Coalition for Zimbabwe (BOCISCOZ)… is concerned about the police brutality, in response to the ongoing civil protests in Zimbabwe,” said the coalition in a statement.
The group includes the Botswana Council of Churches (BCC), Botswana Council of NGOs (BOCONGO), Botswana Sectors of Education and Trade Union (BOSETU), DITSHWANELO, a human rights centre, and MISA–Botswana.
It was reacting to recent cases of police heavy-handedness in response to nationwide civil protests against Mugabe’s rule that resulted in at least one death of a minor.
“The surge in protests across the different parts of Zimbabwe has arisen because of increasing economic hardships, including their aggravation by a recent ban on a wide range of import, which range from coffee creamers and body cream to beds and fertiliser.
The import ban not only threatens the livelihood of millions of Zimbabweans, but also militates against the spirit of free trade in our SADC region,” said BOCISCOZ.
It added: “International human rights law requires states to take measures to address violations of human rights…and take measures to prevent their occurrence,” added the coalition.
It urged Khama to step in as the chair of SADC so as to arrest the prevailing crisis.
“(We) call upon the Chairman of SADC, His Excellency, Lt. General, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President of Botswana, to intervene in order to constructively address the escalating unrest in Zimbabwe and its potential negative implications for regional peace and stability,” said BOCISCOZ.
Similar calls have been made by Zimbabwean exiles and human rights defenders in the UK and other parts of the world, but neither Khama nor SADC have issued a response.
The regional body has been repeatedly accused of letting repressive members off the hook, only taking half-hearted action when crises reach boiling point.
The Botswana umbrella watchdog urged the Zimbabwean government to uphold the rule of law and respect freedom of expression.
It said President Robert Mugabe’s government must revise all policies and legislation that promote violent protests, among them a recent ban on imports that provoked angry demonstrations