MLF burns Zim flag

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Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) activists on Tuesday burned a Zimbabwean flag during their march to the Zimbabwean consulate in South Africa in protest against Harare’s failure to recognise their demand for the separation of the southern region from the rest of the country.

MLF spokesperson David Magagula confirmed the development on Thursday, and said they would burn all national flags in their self-designated Mthwakazi region (Matabeleland and Midlands) if the government continued to snub them.

“If we see these flags, whether they are in hospitals, police stations or other government departments, we are going to burn them down as a denouncement of the imperialism forced upon us by Zimbabwe,” said Magagula.

The incident follows hard on the heels of the recent arrest of three MLF leaders, Charles Thomas, John Gazi and Paul Siwela, in Bulawayo on treason charges.

Zimbabwe Embassy consular-general Christopher Mapanga could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone number continuously diverted to voicemail.

But Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha said there was nothing much they could do since the individuals were based in South Africa.

“Burning the Zimbabwean flag is a serious crime. However, there is very little we can do about the issue due to the legal jurisdiction. It will be difficult to deal with the matter as a government entity.”

Early this month, two of the party leaders, Thomas and Gazi, were released on $2 000 bail each, but Siwela was left languishing in prison as his bail application has been referred to the Supreme Court.

On Thursday, Magagula said MLF members did not consider the so-called Mthwakazi region as a part of Zimbabwe, and would burn any flag they found in the region.

But national police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena, described the flag-burning as “a serious offence” and warned MLF leaders risked arrest if they burned national flags.

On Tuesday, about 500 MLF members and supporters marched to the Zimbabwe consulate in Johannesburg where they intended to hand in a petition demanding the separation of the southern region from the rest of Zimbabwe.

They, however, failed to hand in the petition after they found the embassy closed.

Magagula said the party would now hand the petition to the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria on Tuesday next week.

Meanwhile, the fate of MLF member Siwela, who was remanded in custody on charges of treason in March this year, remains unknown.

Siwela will, however, remain in custody until the Supreme Court makes a determination on his bail application.