Walking a tightrope between deepening ties and rattling a seasoned leader, President Lazarus Chakwera says he discussed human rights and regional integration during his Zimbabwe visit.
The President arrived at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) on Thursday from his second State visit, prior to which, local human rights bodies had asked him to condemn rights abuses perpetrated by his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa.
On whether he addressed the human rights issue, Chakwera responded: “We covered everything but you know that this is a process that takes place. I am a new kid on the block. I am learning and am doing solidarity tours to know what’s happening in our neighbours.
“Even though we do talk about these issues, we have places where we can take them and the President himself at a dinner responded to some of them. We tackled a lot of issues that are beneficial to Malawians and Zimbabweans, and the southern Africa region.”
He said the discussions were both in private and in the presence of others and that they tackled a range of issues, “particularly in human development, relations between our peoples and security in our region”.
However, Chakwera stated that both leaders reiterated their commitment to democracy and the rule of law, citing Mnangagwa’s comments on the country’s historic presidential rerun following nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election results by the court.
In a speech at the dinner Mnangagwa held in his honour, Chakwera also focused more on economic ties and integration.
Said the President: “I am aware that in more ways than we can say in one evening, our peoples are one, with shared history, cultures, trade and geography. I also know that our economies are inextricably linked, and I look forward to working on enhancing economic activities and agriculture productivity of our peoples both within and outside our borders.”
On his part, Mnangagwa said southern African countries should consider holding their general elections without the presence of international observers.
According to Bloomberg news agency, Mnangagwa said Malawi was a country that had held “harmonised presidential elections without foreign observers”.
He added, elections were held without the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community and civil society organisations observing, “but they were successful, peaceful elections conducted by Malawi on its own”.
“This makes us think whether it’s still necessary in future for Sadc countries to look for supervision from across the oceans,” Mnangagwa said.
Chakwera, who was elected President in June, was on a two-day visit to Zimbabwe, his second foreign trip after a maiden trip to neighbouring Zambia. He is due to visit Tanzania and Mozambique in what he has termed as solidarity visits.