The alliance of international civil society organisations (CIVICUS) has made a three-minute film in which Zimbabwean citizens appeal to the South African government to end their suffering. Time 2 Act will be distributed to the Presidents of South Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC.
The film was captured in December in Zimbabwe by a three-member team from CIVICUS whose aim was to express solidarity with Zimbabweans and to see for themselves the total collapse of the country.
What emerged during the CIVICUS mission was that Zimbawean citizens are disillusioned with the mediation efforts of both the South African government and SADC in breaking the post-election political deadlock between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Time 2 Act contains interviews with church leaders, trade union representatives, community workers, human rights lawyers, NGO activists and ordinary men, women and children in Bulawayo, Harare and Gweru.
Observing the total governance and economic collapse in the country, Kumi Naidoo, Honorary President of CIVICUS and co-chair, Global Call to Action Against Poverty, a member of the team that visited Zimbabwe, noted: "The situation in Zimbabwe is much worse than what is believed by Africans and citizens around the world alike. It has been a bleak Christmas, characterised by despair, desperation and destitution with a particularly devastating impact for women and children."
This includes not only the escalating health crisis with the spread of cholera and mass starvation, but the crackdown on basic freedoms and the breakdown of governance structures in the country – exemplified by the abductions and intimidation tactics targeting civil society and political activists, including Jestina Mukoko and her colleagues from the Zimbabwe Peace Project.
The CIVICUS film documents how the courage and zeal of Zimbabwean civil society remains alive, at great peril to the lives of the men and women who work and volunteer with civil society organisations. Ingrid Srinath, secretary general of CIVICUS warns, "The failure of Southern Africa’s leaders to fulfil their political and ethical responsibilities is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and the total breakdown of state structures and governance in Zimbabwe. Through their inertia they are complicit in the systemic abuse of human and democratic rights of the people of Zimbabwe, and will, if unaddressed, cause widespread instability across the region."
CIVICUS joins the voices of civil society in Zimbabwe in urging the South African Government, SADC and African civil society to immediately step up pressure to restore democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwe. On 7 January, CIVICUS convened a meeting of civil society representatives including Zimbabwean groups and South African groups who have been working on Zimbabwean issues, to agree on co-ordinated action.
"This report from the Zimbabwe mission raises issues of utmost concern, and it is clear that there must be a new political impetus to break the current deadlock," said Mary Robinson, former UN Commissioner for Human Rights and a member of The Elders. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is among the prominent civil society leaders who have pledged their active support to the initiative. In a message to CIVICUS, he said, "As the world’s eye turns to the mass killings in Gaza, we must not ignore the ongoing deaths in Zimbabwe – not with bombs, but with starvation, disease and apathy. These deaths are no less deliberate than those perpetuated with arms."