Tuesday, June 3, 2003 (Washington, DC) – Progressive leaders among leading African American organizations, trade unions, church and advocacy groups today released an open letter to Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, to oppose the political repression underway in that country.
Highlighting long historical ties to the independence movements of Zimbabwe, the signators described the current crackdown on political opposition as,” in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle.”
The letter to Mugabe follows a process over the past several months where progressive African Americans have held a series of meetings with representatives of the Zimabwean government and of Zimbabwean civil society both here in the U.S. and in Zimbabwe. The group concluded that it is time that African American progressives make a public statement on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe that so negatively affects the people of that proud country with whom the signatories have stood in solidarity for many decades.
Africa Action executive director, Salih Booker, said today that “We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe to state clearly where we stand. And we stand for human rights and against the repression of the Mugabe regime directed against Zimbabwe’s African majority.”
TransAfrica Forum President Bill Fletcher urged immediate action by the African Union. “The situation in Zimbabwe is crumbling quickly. The African Union needs to intervene as a credible authority before other external forces exploit what is a crisis, not only for Zimbabwe, but the continent.”
The full text of the letter is below. The signators of the letter are:
William Lucy, President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Willie Baker, Executive Vice President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Salih Booker, Executive Director, Africa Action
Bill Fletcher, Jr., President, TransAfrica Forum
Horace G. Dawson Jr., Director Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center,Howard University
Patricia Ann Ford, Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Julianne Malveaux, TransAfrica Forum Board Member
Rev. Justus Y. Reeves, Executive Director Missions Ministry, Progressive National Baptist Convention The Coordinating Committee, Black Radical Congress (BRC)
OPEN LETTER TO ZIMBABWEAN PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE
3 June, 2003
Dear President Mugabe,
We are writing today to implore you to seek a peaceful and just solution to your country’s escalating national crisis. Those signed below are Americans of Africa descent – many of them representing major organizations of civil society in the United States – who have worked for decades to support the liberation movements of Africa and the governments that followed independence which promoted and protected the interests of all of their nation’s people. We form part of an honorable tradition of progressive solidarity with the struggles for decolonization, and against apartheid and imperialism in Africa.
We have strong historical ties to the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, which included material and political support, as well as opposition to U.S. government policies that supported white minority rule. In independent Zimbabwe we have sought to maintain progressive ties with the political party and government that arose from the freedom struggle. At the same time our progressive ties have grown with institutions of civil society, especially the labor movement, women’s organizations, faith communities, human rights organizations, students, the independent media and progressive intellectuals. In Zimbabwe today, all of our relations and our deep empathy and understanding of events there require that we stand in solidarity with those feeling the pain and suffering caused by the abuse of their rights, violence and intolerance, economic deprivation and hunger, and landlessness and discrimination. (more) We do not need to recount here the details of the increasing intolerant, repressive and violent policies of your government over the past 3 years, nor the devastating consequences of those policies. The use of repressive legislation does not, in our respectful view, render such actions justifiable or moral, because of their presumed “legality”. We represent a long tradition of opposition to unjust laws. We have previously expressed to your representative in Washington, DC, our humanitarian concerns about the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe as well as that of the famine triggered by the recent southern African drought and exacerbated by the economic policies and food distribution practices of your government. We have shared our concerns that land redistribution in Zimbabwe be used to fight the poverty of the majority and not to promote the narrow interests of another minority. But most of all, we have communicated clearly that we view the political repression und! erway in Zimbabwe as intolerable and in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle.
Today, Mr. President we call upon yourself and those among the ruling party who truly value democracy, and wish to protect the future of all of Zimbabwe’s citizens to take extraordinary steps to end your country’s political crisis and place it upon a path toward peace. We ask that you initiate an unconditional dialogue with the political opposition in Zimbabwe and representatives of civil society aimed at ending this impasse. We call upon you to seek the diplomatic intervention of appropriately concerned African states and institutions, particularly South Africa and Nigeria, and SADC and the African Union, to assist in the mediation of Zimbabwe’s civil conflict.
Mr. President, the non-violent civil disobedience that is growing in your country – such as that which took place on Mother’s day in Bulawayo – is increasingly met with police brutality and excessive force. Such trends in the abuse of human rights are not only unacceptable, they are threats to your country’s stability and they are undermining the economic and political development your people desire and deserve. We believe that a peaceful solution is possible for Zimbabwe if you find a way to work with others in and outside of your government to create an effective process for a transition to a more broadly supported government upholding the democratic rights of all.
Sincerely yours in struggle,
William Lucy, President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Willie Baker, Executive Vice President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Salih Booker, Executive Director, Africa Action Bill Fletcher, Jr., President, TransAfrica Forum Horace G. Dawson Jr., Director Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, Howard University Patricia Ann Ford, Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Julianne Malveaux, TransAfrica Forum Board Member Rev Justus Y. Reeves, Executive Director Missions Ministry, Progressive National Baptist Convention Coordinating Committee, Black Radical Congress (end)