JUSTICE minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was yesterday grilled in Senate over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent statement urging the South African government to “use a bit of force” to curb xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Bulawayo Metropolitan senator Siphiwe Ncube (MDC Alliance) felt that as chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Defence and Security, it was uncalled for for Mnangagwa to issue statements encouraging the use of force on civilians.
Ziyambi curtly said Mnangagwa’s statement was proper.
“Indeed, the use of force is there in statutes, but it is the extent of force that is the issue,” Ziyambi responded.
Matabeleland North senator Alice Dube then asked Ziyambi to explain why government was not releasing information on how many Zimbabweans had been affected by the xenophobic attacks.
“The President and the Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa have been making statements against xenophobia and that is why I responded initially to a question about the use of force. Mnangagwa has been constantly engaging (South African President Cyril) Ramaphosa on xenophobic attacks in South Africa,” Ziyambi said.
Manicaland senator Douglas Mwonzora (MDC Alliance) then asked the minister to explain whether Zimbabwe knew about the impending xenophobic attacks, and what government did to protect its citizens in the neighbouring country.
“There were unsubstantiated reports that South Africans were planning to carry out what they did, and the South African government was against it as indicated by pronouncements by government. Government relies on the South African government for protection of people within their territory. We do not have the means to go into South Africa to protect our citizens,” Ziyambi said.
Mwonzora then asked Ziyambi to explain why, after Zimbabwe got wind of the attacks, government failed to inform Zimbabweans in South Africa of the impending attacks?
“The unsubstantiated reports pointed to an attack, and we rely on South African officials to ensure there is peace and security in South Africa. The information we had was that the South African government was going to maintain peace and security within its borders, of which they have since deployed security forces to ensure it happens,” he said.
Midlands Senator Lillian Timveous (MDC Alliance) also asked if there were any recorded deaths of Zimbabweans during the attacks.
“We can request our embassy in Pretoria to furnish us with that information, that is, if they manage to collect the statistics,” Ziyambi said.
Senator Morgan Femai (Harare Metropolitan) asked Ziyambi to explain government’s plan B to defend Zimbabwean citizens in South Africa.
“Plan B is to negotiate and plan C is to negotiate until we get a solution,” the Justice minister responded.
He was also asked by Bulawayo Metropolitan senator Helen Zivira to explain Zimbabwe’s policy on allowing foreigners to vote because deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi had this week referred to Ndebeles as foreigners from South Africa.
“Nowhere did I see an official statement of government position saying Ndebele people were foreigners,” Ziyambi said.
Meanwhile, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) yesterday condemned the xenophobic violence and called for urgent and concerted efforts by the government of South Africa, Sadc leaders and other peace-loving bodies to end the violence.
In a statement, NPRC chairperson Justice Selo Maselo Nare said: “The NPRC believes that xenophobia has weakened the spirit of pan-Africanism and ubuntu. This episode of xenophobia has no doubt reduced our African ethics to animal behaviour. The NPRC believes that a country that does not know its history cannot learn from its mistakes or past. Thus, the commission urges the government of South Africa to show political will and protect African migrants from these xenophobic attacks.
“The anti-immigrant sentiment must be stopped forthwith to avoid further loss of lives.”