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SADC agrees Mugabe illegitimate but refuses to bar him from meetings

By Alex Bell
16 October 2008

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has for the first time acknowledged that Robert Mugabe should not be recognised as a legitimate head of state – in response to a legal application filed against the regional body by the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum two months ago.

The forum’s Gabriel Shumba, a human rights lawyer who was severely tortured by Mugabe’s regime in 2003, led the urgent application to the SADC Tribunal in August, seeking to block Mugabe from attending a SADC summit in South Africa that month as head of state. SADC however failed to respond and Mugabe was welcomed as Zimbabwe’s leader. The Exiles Forum also demanded that Mugabe and his government should not be invited or allowed to attend future SADC meetings as Zimbabwe’s representatives.

SADC has now acknowledged in a legal document that it felt concerns that Mugabe should not be recognised as Zimbabwe’s head of state are “legitimate”. But the regional body has at the same time rejected the demand that it should refuse to allow Mugabe and his government to participate in future SADC activities.

In its response, delivered to the SADC Tribunal only this week, the SADC Secretariat said the Exiles Forum’s concern that Mugabe be barred from the summit “because he had not been elected into office through a credible process” was “legitimate”. But SADC also responded that the Forum’s application be rejected because former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the SADC appointed mediator, was able to facilitate a power sharing deal to end Zimbabwe’s political crisis.

The Forum’s Gabriel Shumba told Newsreel on Thursday that the response in no way “detracts from our argument that Mugabe should not be in any way recognised as Zimbabwe’s leader.” He argued that the facilitation process under Mbeki has not changed the simple fact that the will of the people has been thwarted, and agreed that SADC was clearly “waiting and hoping that by now there would be a deal to legitimise Mugabe”.

“We are praying now that the Tribunal, when it hears our arguments, will order the Secretariat in future not to allow Mugabe to be invited as head of state,” Shumba said. “We are also hoping the Mugabe will be shunned by other SADC organs, so SADC proves it holds true to its founding principles.”

The SADC Tribunal had not yet set a date for hearing the Exiles Forum’s plea.


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