BY MOSES MATENGA
SOUTHERN Defenders, a grouping of civil society organisations from across the Southern African region has called for the protection of human rights defenders, adding that governments must respect their freedoms.
In their statement to commemorate the International Human Rights Day last Friday, they said the respect of human rights will result in economic growth for Southern African countries.
“Southern Defenders calls on the governments in Southern Africa to respect, promote and protect all internationally recognised and constitutionally guaranteed human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as, but is not limited to freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” Southern Defenders team leader Washington Katema said in a statement.
“We urge governments in the region to safeguard the online and offline civic, democratic and civil society space. A country which respects human rights has better prospects of engineering inclusive and sustainable economic growth.”
Katema saluted the frontline human rights defenders, who he said have remained the shield of protection for citizens and pro-democracy activists that are at risk in Southern Africa and beyond.
“Southern Defenders is encouraged by the sacrifice, resilience and tenacity demonstrated by human rights defenders in the debilitating new wave of authoritarianism and inequality amid the omnipresent COVID-19.
“The leaders in Southern Africa and beyond should demonstrate the political will to foster a culture of human rights in their respective countries. This is also time to move from survival rights to free expression rights. Our people deserve the full menu of rights. Another Cabo Delgado is possible, Another Nampula is possible, another Tete is possible, another Zimbabwe is possible and indeed, another Swaziland is possible. Together we defend.
“And as the 16 days of activism against gender based violence (GBV) come to an end, Southern Defenders reiterate that women rights are human rights. The ladder of opportunities is still lopsided in favour of men. This situation has to change. We need all hands on deck to spur the much needed radical transformation and balance of forces.”