Parliamentarians cannot remain silent about Zimbabwe, a case of ”democracy gone wrong”, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said in Cape Town on Sunday.
A Southern African Development Community (SADC) special meeting in Lusaka on Saturday had urged a speedy resolution to a ”democratic process gone wrong”, Mbete said to applause at the opening of the 118th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting.
”We look forward to a lasting solution in the interest of peace and stability in Zimbabwe and in the SADC region,” she said.
Another major concern is the ”rapidly deteriorating situation” in several countries in the world. The Middle East, particularly Palestine, remains a ”serious threat” to peace and stability, she said, again to applause. ”The building of the wall, the violations of human rights and the continuous aggression must stop immediately.”
Also of concern is the economic slowdown in the United States and rising food and oil prices that have severely affected developing nations.
The IPU, a gathering of more than 140 parliaments worldwide, will try to find solutions to the problem during the week’s discussions.
Mbete also called for the IPU to work more closely with the United Nations.
More also has to be done to ensure more women are represented in the IPU and in the delegations of member countries.
She said parliamentarians have to claim back their role as overseers of government, both domestically and internationally.
”The view has developed among parliamentarians around the globe that we have deferred foreign policy to the executive and have failed to ensure that the voice of the people we represent is articulated in those policies,” she said.
In his speech, President Thabo Mbeki congratulated the IPU for its stance on gender equality in government and programmes that focus on the emancipation of women.
Rising food prices and the subsequent protests across the globe and in several African countries are an ”increasingly serious problem” that is negatively affecting efforts to fight poverty.
Hopefully the critical nature of the matter will give ”some impetus” to World Trade Organisation negotiations, he said.
He criticised the response to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which, among others, aim to halving poverty worldwide by 2015, as ”very tepid, weak”.
Ending poverty requires significant and sustained transfers of resources from rich to poor countries. This will not happen automatically or be driven by market forces, he said.
In his written speech, from which Mbeki omitted large sections in the interest of brevity, he wrote that farming subsidies had allowed ”agribusiness” to expand its grip on world markets.
”Clearly, such industry concentration makes for unfair competition, inefficient markets and inappropriate influence over policy areas such as trade regulations.”
Tsvangirai cancels SA trip
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has cancelled a planned trip to South Africa on Monday and will head to Mozambique instead, a spokesperson said.
”Unfortunately there are other meetings that have come up,” George Sibotshiwe said.
Tsvangirai was to brief journalists in Johannesburg on Zimbabwe’s election crisis.
The opposition leader, who has claimed victory in the country’s March 29 presidential election, was heading instead to Mozambique for private meetings, but was not expected to hold a press conference there, his spokesperson said.
Tsvangirai would visit Johannesburg later in the week and give his reaction to the SADC summit and the situation in Zimbabwe in a few days’ time, Sibotshiwe said by telephone from Botswana, where he was with the opposition leader.
Tsvangirai attended the emergency SADC summit on Zimbabwe’s post-election crisis in Zambia on Saturday and Sunday.
There has still been no official word on the outcome of the March 29 presidential election more than a fortnight after the poll. A ruling is expected on Monday on an opposition legal bid to force the electoral commission to release the result.
President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party insists no one won an outright victory and is gearing up for a run-off second ballot. — Sapa, AFP