Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has held a first day of meetings in Namibia amid protests by human rights groups in the capital Windhoek. A group of about 80 demonstrators staged a peaceful march outside Zimbabwe’s Embassy in Windhoek on the second day of President Mugabe’s three-day visit. They criticized Harare’s human rights abuses and humanitarian policies that have fortified a deepening economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Executive Director Phil ya Nangoloh of Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights says that yesterday’s rally was staged to support opposition parties within Zimbabwe, and also advance the disapproval being voiced by the international community.
“Namibians are disturbed by what they read in the newspapers and what they see in various audiovisual reports as going on in Zimbabwe and for which Mugabe is held responsible. That is what provoked that hostile reaction against Mugabe’s visit in Namibia,” he said.
In addition, ya Nangoloh said Nambian human rights groups turned out yesterday to voice concerns about Zimbabwe-style interference that they believe could jeopardize the personal and property rights of their own citizens.
“Indeed, the rights groups believe that President Mugabe came here to see his old friend, former President Sam Nujoma, rather than to come to do business with the current President Lukas Pohamba. And this is why Namibian human rights groups were alarmed that perhaps Mugabe has come here to give his old friend Nujoma one lesson or two to seize land, as Nujoma himself is becoming increasingly unpopular as well,” he said.
Even greater suspicions were aroused earlier this week in Windhoek by the visit of former Malawi President Bakili Muluzi. Ya Nangoloh says he believes that former Presidents Muluzi and Nujoma may be looking to President Mugabe for advice on how to make political comebacks.
“Former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi was here, clearly hoping to return to power and that is also the perception in Namibia with regard to Sam Nujoma. He wants to come to power in the opinions of so many Nambians after maybe one year of President Pohamba’s government. We believe Mugabe is an expert in that field, and that’s why he is going to have a special meeting this morning with his old friend Sam Nujoma,” said ya Nangoloh.
During Wednesday’s meetings with between Presidents Pohamba and Mugabe, the Nambian leader raised his country’s disapproval of Harare’s land expropriation policies. Ya Nangoloh says President Pohamba was quite frank in his criticism.
“We have heard that although President Mugabe brought up the importance of the so-called land issue, President Pohamba somewhat snubbed him on that issue and indeed as is widely reported, President Pohamba made it clear to President Mugabe that what is going on in Zimbabwe is unacceptable with specific regard to the human rights, the humanitarian, and the human security situation in that country,” he said.
Namibia’s ya Nangoloh points out that civil disobedience is growing in his country against former President Nujoma, highlighted by divisions within his SWAPO faction. Likewise, the human rights campaigner notes a rift is developing in Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party over President Mugabe’s policies. Ya Nangoloh says Namibians’ disapproval of this week’s Mugabe visit goes beyond the conventional censure of western countries like Britain, the United States, and the European Union to include criticism from Zimbabwe’s Southern African neighbors.
“It’s a gain on the human rights side that his visit has generated very negative feelings about Mugabe because before, it was always viewed as only Europeans or Americans were against Robert Mugabe. But now, it came as a shock to him that opposition came from black Africans like him, and that is not in Northern Africa, but right in the part of Southern Africa where his country is located. That is definitely a great loss for Mugabe, but a big gain for human rights, democracy, and respect for the rule of law,” he said.