Kate Hoey, a member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, has called for Zimbabwe to be banned from rejoining the Commonwealth following the ongoing detention of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) politician Job Sikhala. Hoey commented on an emotional letter written by Sikhala from Zimbabwe’s Chikurubi Maximum Prison, in which he claimed to have developed a mysterious illness.
Hoey referred to Sikhala’s detention as “a shocking abuse of human rights” by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu PF party, and argued that the country should not be allowed back into the Commonwealth. Piers Pigou, a senior consultant for the International Crisis Group for Southern Africa, also commented on the situation, stating that Sikhala’s ongoing imprisonment “reminds us of how many previous abuses…have fed into an embedded culture of impunity 20 years ago.” Pigou noted that Sikhala was one of many young opposition voices who were brutally tortured by the state machinery at that time.
Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth in 2003 due to the controversial land reform program, which was marked by violence. However, President Mnangagwa’s government applied to rejoin the group four years ago, a year after the ousting of former President Mugabe in a military coup. In order to be readmitted into the group, Zimbabwe must address human rights violations and respect the rule of law.