Last night I was shocked when listening to a Botswana authority warning her country’s sporting delegation to be very careful about what they said on their visit to Zimbabwe, as they could find themselves in very serious trouble, as a result of the unstable political situation in the country.
Although, I was alone in the room where the news bulletin was showing on television, I felt so embarrassed as if I had just wet my pants in front of hundreds of people.
What had ZANU PF’s persecution and threats against innocent peaceful protesters done to the international image of Zimbabwe?
Clearly, these persecution and threats have sent uncomfortable shivers down the spine of any foreigner who might wish to visit the country.
What type of a party and government would torment its own people to the point that even foreign visitors would also feel in danger?
This is extremely embarrassing and disturbing, as it shows that the magnitude of this brutality has exceeded any other, in a country that is not at war.
Such apprehension over visiting Zimbabwe, especially by a sporting delegation, is only equalled by a similar fear of contracting the Zika virus at the Rio (Brazil) 2016 Olympics, which are kicking off in a few days.
These actions by ZANU PF should never be taken lightly, as it is very clear that their effect is global, as the international community fully understands the cruelty of such a regime.
For a foreign sporting delegation to fear visiting a country, it means that they have seen that the brutality in that country is paranoic, senseless, reckless, indiscriminate and so vile that it will be targeted at anyone who just dares criticising the ruling class in any way.
It would not be surprising at all that these foreign visitors might be frightened of even criticising the food they would be given, for fear that could be arrested!
This should tell both the Zimbabwean and international community that the need to take action against such brutality is long overdue.
All regional and international institutions, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), and United Nations (UN) should immediately take the Zimbabwe crisis seriously, as a grave disaster is looming.
Zimbabwe is a ticking time-bomb, and if sporting delegations can spot this fact, why can these regional and international organisations fail to identify this?
The SADC and AU should now come out of their customary cronyism mentality, and transform into truly people-centred organisations.
They should cease being clubs for the ruling elite to mix and mingle, whilst protecting themselves from being accountable to the people they lead – as these organisations are currently nothing more than dictators’ clubs.
No wonder they are more interested in leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC), than they are seriously concerned about promoting human rights, accountability, and the upliftment of the people’s standards of living.
It is very regrettable that even South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) recently issued a very ill-informed statement alleging – as is ZANU PF – that the recent protests in Zimbabwe were instigated by foreign powers.
A party with such a reputable history should know better.
Even the Botswana sporting delegation knows that the real threat in Zimbabwe are not some abstract foreign embassies, but the ZANU PF government.
This reaction by a delegation representing a country that currently chairs SADC should also serve as a wake up call for the Botswana President Ian Khama.
If his own people understand the dangers posed by the ZANU PF government – even to foreign sporting delegations – should he not also take the Zimbabwe issue more seriously?
Botswana has been a beacon of hope on the continent, as it leads in good governance, human rights and anti-corruption, and the people of Zimbabwe would expect a more active approach to their crisis.
Botswana has been very vocal before, in standing up for the rights of oppressed Zimbabweans, and now that they have the SADC chair, they can do even more.
The region and the international community can definitely not afford another catastrophe in this country – least of all, such countries, as Botswana and South Africa, who would bear the brunt of any spill over.
In fact, with Khama at the helm of SADC, the regional body should be transformed into an African pioneer on issues of human rights and democracy.
The organisation should be re-aligned on the same basis as the European Union (EU), whereby the respect for human rights is mandatory for all member states, and a requirement for countries concluding trade and other agreements with SADC.
Strong checks and balances should be put in place on each member state’s adherence to civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights – through an enforceable charter of fundamental rights, whereby the organisation is not fearful in sanctioning any defaulter.
Only then can the populations of member states have any confidence in these regional and continental bodies, which have so far, failed the people.
The failure of one member state is the failure of the whole region.
Currently, Zimbabwe is suffering from a serious economic meltdown, due to ZANU PF’s misgovernance and misrule, which has resulted in millions of Zimbabweans flocking to such countries as Botswana and South Africa – thereby also affecting their economies.
The adverse publicity generated by ZANU PF’s brutality will also serve to drive the already crippled economy further down, as tourist receipts are surely expected to significantly reduce.
A situation Zimbabwe can ill afford, as that will only worsen the already desperate situation for the people of Zimbabwe.
The grave situation in Zimbabwe ceased to be an academic issue a long time ago, and all relevant stakeholders should be actively involved in resolving this issue as a matter of urgency, before it explodes and becomes unmanageable.
Already the ordinary people in the international community appreciate the gravity of the situation in Zimbabwe, it is now up to their governments to face reality and play their part in resolving this crisis.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist and commentator, writer, and journalist. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes any feedback. Please WhatsApp/call: +263782283975, or email: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.