Youth and Society (YAS) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) have asked President Lazarus Chakwera to plead with Harare to stop its alleged attacks on human rights defenders.
The CSOs want Chakwera, who is leaving Malawi today for Zimbabwe on a two-day State visit, to intervene by asking his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa to tone down and respect rights of all citizens, including human rights defenders.
But presidential press secretary Brian Banda has said such issues cannot be discussed in the media, adding that countries have diplomatic ways of talking to each other.
In a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Eisenhower Mkaka dated September 29 2020, YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka and CHRR acting executive director Michael Kaiyatsa said Zimbabwe is now characterised by arbitrary arrests, abductions, expulsions, disappearances and torture of journalists, political activists, government critics and human rights defenders.
They said: “We urge Dr Chakwera, to use this State visit as a platform to send a clear message that the actions of the Government of Zimbabwe are inherently at wide variance with the agreed norms of democratic governance and call upon them to address fundamental domestic challenges whose effects are disastrous on its people and the region.”
They also observed that Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) leaders have indifferently watched and rarely exerted pressure on Zimbabwe.
Banda, speaking from Harare, said the meeting aims at strengthening bilateral relations through trade, but also ensure that the two countries live in harmony.
He said: “Malawi needs to be in good terms with her neighbours, that is why President Chakwera went to Zambia and is this week in Zimbabwe. On concerns from the CSOs, there are diplomatic ways of how countries talk to each other.
“Chakwera is the incoming Sadc chairperson, and as you know, the issues you are talking about cannot be discussed in the media. Remember, these are sovereign States, and there is a diplomatic way of talking to each other.”
Posting on his Facebook page on Sunday, Mkaka said he had discussed bilateral trade agreements with his Zimbabwean counterpart, Sibusiso Moyo, with whom he posed in a photo.
He posted: “He positively welcomed my proposal of a tripartite economic relationship involving Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We will be pursuing this further for the betterment of the three nations.”
This is Chakwera second foreign trip since taking office in June. Last week he visited Zambia where he met that country’s President Edgar Lungu.