By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
21 March 2014
Zimbabwe is set to host the next regional Heads of State Summit in Victoria Falls, which will see Robert Mugabe taking over the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
According to a Chronicle newspaper report a preparatory meeting will be taking place next week with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the summit taking place in August. A local organising committee was formed this week ahead of the planning meeting, composed of representatives from a cross section of different government departments as well as the police, the army and the tourism sector.
The hosting of the SADC meeting comes off the back of the ‘successful’ hosting of last year’s international United Nations (UN) tourism summit in 2013. That UN meeting, which took place in the weeks after the disputed electoral ‘victory’ by ZANU PF, resulted in international condemnation. The UN tourism authority was harshly criticised for endorsing the flawed Zim elections and the contested result, by going ahead with the Victoria Falls meeting.
The SADC Heads of State summit meanwhile will coincide with Robert Mugabe’s ascension to the Chairmanship of the leadership body. He was appointed to the Deputy Chairmanship position last year, in a move that was also roundly condemned as a sign of SADC’s loyalty to the ageing ZANU PF leader.
Dewa Mavhinga, senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the decision to appoint Mugabe to the SADC leadership was “an admission of failure of leadership” by the regional body.
He also criticised the hosting of the summit in Victoria Falls while the rest of the country was suffering with a shortage of food, unemployment and a rapidly declining economy.
“Victoria Falls is far removed from the reality in Zimbabwe. It is an elitist venue that is reflective of how disconnected the Zimbabwean leadership is,” Mavhinga told SW Radio Africa.
Former Chegutu farmer Ben Freeth, whose attempts to have the SADC human rights Tribunal restored were dashed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights , meanwhile said he was “outraged” by the SADC developments.
“We have a situation where the Commission allows the dictators of Southern Africa to get away with destroying the highest human rights court of the region, and these same heads of state are now making Mugabe, who is responsible for the destruction of the court, the chairman of SADC,” Freeth told SW Radio Africa on Friday.
He added: “What we have clearly is a group of people who are not there with the aims of protecting the rights of its people, but who are only there to protect their own power. This summit in Victoria Falls just shows that they really don’t care.”