SADC bodies commends Malawi institutions for upholding rights, democracy

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, have called upon Malawi to continue on the path of democratization of key government institutions as one way of pressing for human rights improvement.

Malawi should also make a commitment to further the realization of economic and social rights as well as to a sustained fight against corruption that undermines those rights, they said.

The three bodies specifically singled out the judiciary, the security forces and the Malawi Electoral Commission for demonstrating “strength and independence” in the aftermath of Malawi’s controversial May 20 tripartite polls.

SADC power  transfer: Mugabe and Mutharika chatting.
SADC power transfer: Mugabe and Mutharika chatting.

Malawi held chaotic tripartite elections on May 20 with the country’s pollster, MEC facing massive logistical challenges with some people voting two days after the official voting day.

Apart from that, allegations of some people voting multiple times, ballots tampering, inflated results and the hacking of MEC’s computerised voter counting system emerged consequently resulting in a litany of court battles between MEC, opposition parties and other stakeholders.

Paradoxically, the EU and SADC observer missions separately hailed the elections as “peaceful, free, transparent and credible”

Democratic Progressive Party  (DPP) candidate President Peter Mutharika emerged victorious despite a string of court cases by losing contenders on the whole management of  the electoral process.

They made their impassioned plea in strongly word statement released on Thursday as the 15 member states of SADC prepare to meet for the 34th Summit of Heads of State and Government in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on August 17 and 18, 2014.

“Human rights are central to achieve sustainable economic development and regional integration,” Deprose Muchena, Southern Africa director at Amnesty International said.

“SADC should strive to create conditions for all to enjoy their economic, social, civil, and political rights. SADC leadership must respond to the real needs of ordinary people and vigorously implement regional and international human rights standards.”

They then urged President Mutharika to ensure that his government forges ahead with the promotion of human rights by incorporating in domestic legislation all of the international human rights instruments to which the country is party.

“Malawi should take decisive steps to end discrimination and protect sexual minorities as well as ensure gender equality and the protection of women’s rights in all spheres of society,” the statement read.

On the change of the rotational SADC leadership from Malawi President Mutharika to his mercurial Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe, the tripartite group expressed trepidation on new leader’s commitment to human rights.

“Zimbabwe’s leadership is also failing to address fundamental economic and social rights. The country is enforcing laws that violate fundamental human rights protected under the May 2013 constitution. Nor has there been any move toward justice for past political violence,” they noted.

For instance, many people in Harare have little access to potable water and sanitation services, violating their right to water, sanitation, and health.  In the country’s diamond fields, greater transparency is needed on diamond production, revenue and the allocation of mining rights.

Under Zimbabwe’s leadership, SADC should press for human rights improvement across the sub-region, particularly in Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, and Zambia.—(Collins Mtika reporting for Nyasa Times from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.)

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