- The Southern African Development Community (SADC)leaders have been lambasted for double standards, after their decision, late last night, to suspend Madagascar from the regional bloc and push for more isolation and sanctions against the Island's new administration and its citizens.
SADC has followed on the African Union decision to suspend Madagascar and demand for the immediate reinstatement of the self-exiled president Marc Ravalomanana, who resigned under pressure from anti-government protests and a military mutiny.
The regional body, meeting in Swaziland made the harshest decision against Madagascar, with just a few months having braced out of the headache caused by the Zimbabwean political impasse, which finally gave in in February this year.
"Inconsistencies, hypocrisy and double standards will continue to plague SADC. Having failed to act with the required decisiveness on Zimbabwe and Swaziland, it now seeks to prove a point in the Madagascan situation, which it could not in the two other instances. While decisive action is welcome, it must be a consistent and not selective feature of institutional intervention," charged the Congress of South African Trade Unions today.
The union felt that the SADC leadership should have shown the same seriousness in guarding democracy much earlier than pouncing now on Madagascar, further saying it was unfortunate that the meeting that came out with the decision was chaired by the King of Swaziland, who continues to rule against the very principles that SADC claims to be protecting.
"The fact that SADC could appoint a renowned despot in the person of Mswati, to preside over such an honourable institution as the SADC Organ Troika, responsible for the defense and promotion of democracy in the region, makes a mockery of those intentions, however noble they may be. Swaziland is not the place to discuss the democratic resolution of regional problems, because it is a bad example to the region and world," the union said, calling on SADC to press for changes and respect of human rights in Swaziland.
Other critics have accused SADC of handling the Madagascar case in a biased manner, especially when it selected to hear the deposed president without inviting and insisting on those in power to also table their case.
They added that the stance taken by SADC and other bodies could make matters worse, especially if the regional and the whole world believes there was a need for opening dialogue amongst the Malagasy players.
"These kind of decisions could build hardened concrete walls between those accused and the rest of the world as a defensive mechanism," said one regional political observer, adding that both SADC and the AU may find it very difficult to reopen any kind of talks in Madagascar.
On the other hand, COSATU notes that SADC’s intervention was taken in the context of a clearly unconstitutional transfer of power that threatens to undermine the basis of constitutional democracy.
However, the union said there are a few factors that need to be taken into account, mentioning that insufficient, and sometimes non-existent, political or democratic space for continuous political engagement in most countries of our region, constitutes the greatest threat to democracy, stability and progress.
"The weakness of civil society, sometimes as a result of deliberate state policy to keep ruling elites in power, subjects the people of our region to a perennial process of elite-recycling, without clear and fundamentally progressive alternatives to failed state policies," COSATU said in a statement, further pointing that weak institutions of state jurisdiction and power management lead to individuals and even armies exceeding their own limits; hence the rife abuse of power.
The union called that SADC must be transformed to reflect the legitimate aspirations of the region and its people. "It must uphold the most democratic practices and consistently enforce high standards of governance, transparency and accountability to its people," the union said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the new Malagasy ruler, Andry Rajoelina, has condemned his country's expulsion from the regional bloc, saying the decision to isolate Madagascar was wrong and was not in the country's interest, according to reports.
Mr Rajoelina, is also reported to be intent on pushing with the programme of reforms which will only afford the country an election in no time that will be less than two years, including the change on the constitution that makes him too much of a baby to rule the country at 36 years of age.
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