The detention lasted about four hours, with the delegation being shuffled in between large groups of inquisitive immigration and police officers, some of whom accused the officials of working with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party.
They openly told them that SADC is “one” and they will not allow people who make an attempt at disrupting that unity while their baggage was being rummaged through.
“We were detained. They were accusing us of being opposition and aligned to Tsvangirai. We are here to speak to issues of the partisan role of the military in Zimbabwe’s political and electoral affairs and also making a case against political violence in Zimbabwe which is state sponsored,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Regional Coordinator.
“Our position paper to SADC on the elections roadmap map highlighting our concerns regarding security sector realignment and other documents speaking to political violence and other critical reforms were confiscated. We are dismayed and shocked but not deterred.”
The detention comes just days after human rights, civic society activists and journalists from several regional countries were deported at the international airport in Luanda. The civil society members were in Angola to participate in the 7th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum, which is held annually in the SADC country that will be hosting the SADC Heads of State Summit.
The deportation was seen as an attempt by the Angolan government to stifle free speech and muzzle activists from having their voices heard on issues concerning governance and democracy in the region.
Regional civic society organisations have repeatedly called on the regional body to move towards genuine respect for human rights to avoid political uprisings such as those witnessed in North Africa and the Arab world.
Recently Malawi was on fire with its citizens demanding proper governance and respect for human rights. Activists in that country have promised to hold vigils to push for their demands.