BY MOSES MATENGA / DESMOND CHINGARANDE
SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured) has voiced his concern over the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe that has seen a spike in State-sponsored abductions, arrests and torture of opposition activists and anti-corruption proponents.
Ramaphosa reportedly recently contacted President Emmerson Mnangagwa to register his displeasure after receiving reports that dozens of Zimbabweans had fled their homes in fear of State agents following a massive crackdown last week.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party secretary-general, Ace Magashule, yesterday said the situation in Zimbabwe, particularly the brutality by State agents on innocent civilians was “uncalled for”, adding Pretoria was now seized with
“We have discussed the situation in Zimbabwe. We are going to have a special session to engage Zimbabwe,” Magashule said.
“We see what is happening and the President is interacting with the President of Zimbabwe, worried about what is taking place there and it will have a spillover to South Africa. We will assist Zimbabweans to stabilise their country, their economy.”
“We have a role to play as South Africa, as African Union and as a party, the African National Congress,” he said.
“We have talked to some of the people who are exiled, who have run away from Zimbabwe, we know their story, we heard them and that is why we are interacting party to party to raise some of the concerns they have actually raised about what is happening in Zimbabwe,” he said.
He was referring to former Cabinet ministers in the late former President Robert Mugabe’s government who fled to the neighbouring country soon after the November 2017 coup that toppled the long time ruler.
These include former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, former Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi and former Labour minister Patrick Zhuwao.
Former Higher Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa, and former Harare South MP Shadreck Mashayamombe, among others, also sought refuge in South Africa after being hounded out of Harare.
“There is no one who condones that (brutality of civilians). We say black lives matter, lives of human beings matter and Zimbabwean lives matters of course and what we see on television there, we say it is uncalled for,” Magashule said, in apparent approval of the trending social media hashtag campaign initiated by local and regional social media activists.
The hashtag campaign #ZimbabweanLivesMatter, also supported by celebrities, politicians and international human rights organisations, has attracted the attention of the African Union Human Rights Commission and Elders, a grouping of independent global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights.
To show his commitment to the Zimbabwean cause, Ramaphosa yesterday appointed Sydney Mufamadi and Baleka Mbete as his special envoys to Harare, following recent reports of disturbances.
The two are expected to engage Mnangagwa’s government and relevant stakeholders to identify possible ways in which South Africa could assist Zimbabwe.
Ramaphosa’s special envoys will leave for Zimbabwe as soon as all the arrangements are made.
There have been calls for the Zimbabwean crisis to be tabled before the Sadc 40th Sadc Summit of heads of State and Government that will be held virtually and hosted by Mozambique next week.
South Africans were also yesterday running a Twitter campaign calling on citizens to protest at the Zimbabwean embassy against Mnangagwa’s rights violations after opposition Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema called for the closure of the embassy.
South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Naledi Pandor, was reportedly in contact with her Zimbabwean counterpart Sibusiso Moyo over the crisis with a view to bring the situation to normalcy.
Opposition parties in South Africa, including the Economic Freedom Fighters, have raised concerns over rights violations by Mnangagwa’s administration.
South African opposition Democratic Alliance former leader, Mmusi Maimane also wrote to Pandor calling for her to issue a démarche against Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi.
Maimane said as Sadc leader, South Africa could not turn a blind eye on what was happening in the neighbouring country, adding that quiet diplomacy allowed injustices to continue unabated.
The African Transformation Movement (ATM) also wrote to South Africa’s Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise requesting that the Zimbabwean crisis be debated, criticising the House for being silent about the situation in the neighbouring country.
ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula said the silence of the House on this matter “might have dire consequences for South Africa and damning consequences for the people of Zimbabwe who are exposed to this injustice by the Zimbabwean government.”
Zimbabwe is under global spotlight amid abductions, arbitrary arrests and silencing of human rights and opposition activists that Zanu PF bigwigs led by Mnangagwa have described as terrorists who should be “flushed out”.
The Elders also issued a statement condemning the abuses in Zimbabwe, saying there was a need for urgent intervention.
“With reports of arrests, beatings and abductions in Zimbabwe, The Elders call for an immediate end to violence and empathise the fight against COVID-19 should be rooted in respect for human rights. As the scale of #ZimbabweanLivesMatter shows, dialogue and reform are urgently needed,” the Elders said.
Former Botswana President Ian Khama also added his voice, expressing concern that Zimbabweans are still living under colonial-type repression 40 years after independence.
“Now 40 years later and under majority rule, nothing seems to have changed for the long suffering people of Zimbabwe other than the name of the county and that of its leaders. Free Zimbabwe,” Khama said.
However, in the wake of an international attack on Harare’s use of force to brutalise citizens, the government yesterday claimed that videos and pictures circulating of a country in crisis were doctored.
Meanwhile, a South African broadcaster has claimed that some countries in the world were likely to push for Zimbabwe to be put on the United Nations Security Council agenda over gross human rights violations.
Zimbabwe was last put on the UN Security Council agenda in 2008 after several opposition members and supporters were killed during a run-off election which was later boycotted by the late opposition leader MDC Alliance president Morgan Tsvangirai over the killings.
The broadcaster, Sophie Mokoena tweeted after the hashtag campaign #ZimbabweanLivesMatter continued trending yesterday to raise alarm to the world over the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
“Some countries are likely to push for Zimbabwe to be on the agenda of the UN Security council, watch #sabcnews channel 404 for updates or follow @sherwiebp,” Mokoena posted.
In 2008, several European countries requested the UN Security Council to put Zimbabwe on its agenda which resulted in the Security Council issuing a statement on June 23, 2008 before the run-off election.
Through the deputy secretary-general of the Security Council Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro on June 23, 2008, the council condemned the use of violence against the opposition ahead of the second round of the presidential elections held on June 27.
Scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans were killed by the Zanu PF government, others were assaulted and thousands displaced, including women and children as Mugabe battled to overturn a first round poll defeat to Tsvangirai.