BY MOSES MATENGA/DESMOND CHINGARANDE
A SIX-MEMBER delegation dispatched by South Africa’s ruling party, African National Congress (ANC) jetted into the country last night for today’s crunch meeting with Zanu PF, but analysts predicted a no-holds-barred encounter, where the comrades-in-arms would tell each other home truths.
The team is being led by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule (pictured), who has been very vocal over the festering political and economic crises in Zimbabwe.
Other members of the delegation include international relations committee chairperson Lindiwe Zulu, chairperson Gwede Manthashe, international relations committee chairperson Tony Yengeni, Defence minister Nosiviwe Nqakula and national executive committee member Enoch Godongwana.
The visit comes following a pledge by South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa last week to deploy two teams, one to engage the ruling party and another to meet all stakeholders in Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted crises.
This becomes the second team to meet Zanu PF after Ramaphosa last month dispatched three special envoys who met President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s delegation only, leaving opposition leaders and civic society fretting over the alleged snub.
Both Zanu PF and ANC confirmed that the visiting team would only engage the ruling party.
“Zanu PF wishes to make it categorically clear that this is a meeting between the Zanu PF delegation and the ANC delegation only,” Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa said.
But analyst Phillan Zamchiya yesterday said while liberation parties operate secretively, the actors and nature of the delegation dispatched by Ramaphosa showed that South Africa was now more determined to dump its previous camaraderie approach and reprimand Zanu PF leaders for refusing to acknowledge the crisis on their doorstep.
“The very act of dispatching a high-powered delegation to Zimbabwe amid the COVID-19 pandemic is an indication that the ANC is not satisfied by Zanu PF’s narrative that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe but just difficulties,” Zamchiya said.
“In their view, it seems Zanu PF is being dishonest if not lying about the nature, breadth and depth of Zimbabwe’s problems. If the ANC was satisfied that there is no crisis, then it could not have bothered to send such a high-level delegation.”
South Africa intervened last month following an international outcry over heightened human rights violations by Mnangagwa’s administration.
Government has, however, insisted that there is no crisis in the country even after admonishments by the African Union Commission, European Union, United Nations, churches and international human rights groups.
Zamchiya said South Africa had refused to be cowed into submission by Zanu PF as shown by sending officials who have been vilified by Mnangagwa’s henchmen.
“They have sent the very same characters that were publicly denounced by Zanu PF,” he said.
On August 6, Magashule expressed concern over human rights violations in Zimbabwe and was rebuked by Chinamasa.
Zulu also publicly declared the crisis in Zimbabwe, saying it was time to be “honest with each other” as liberation movements.
Zamchiya said dispatching the Defence minister meant South Africa understood that the military, after the November 2017 coup, was the elephant in the room in the Zimbabwean polity.
“The ANC understands the practical constraints,” he said.
“Zanu PF insists on national sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs, denounces South Africa’s unilateralism, condemns the politics of sub-imperialism and ridicules the dominance of white capital in South Africa as a way to delegitimise ANC,” Zamchiya added.
“In their bid to tread carefully in the diplomatic world, the ANC has found a legitimate entry point that of sisterhood borne out of the liberation struggle. This is a platform that Zanu PF cannot easily reject or delegitimise.”
Zamchiya, however, noted: “One clear thing is that the ANC is not there to do any political bidding for opposition parties. The outcome and response will still largely depend on internal and regional pressure and active mobilisation by progressive forces.”
Opposition MDC Alliance secretary for presidential affairs Jameson Timba said his party was still optimistic that the Magashule-led delegation would engage all stakeholders before flying back home.
“What we have at the moment is they are starting their meeting with Zanu PF on Wednesday, that is all we have at the moment,” he said.
South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said the ANC delegation should meet all stakeholders without fail if a solution to the Zimbabwean crisis was to be realised.
“The ANC delegation must meet with all the key stakeholders in Zimbabwe, otherwise we are wasting time,” he said.
“They must meet the MDC Alliance. They must meet the key civil society groups; they must meet with journalists who have been victimised by Zanu PF.”
Former top Zanu PF official Godfrey Gandawa, who went into self-imposed exile alongside several others following Mnangagwa’s takeover in a coup in 2017, however, warned that citizens should not place much hope on the visit by ANC officials as their mission was not to address opposition parties’ grievances, but assist Zanu PF to stabilise the situation.
“As far as the ANC and Ramaphosa’s envoys are concerned, they are not in Harare to negotiate a transfer of power or to relegate the coup or the 2018 election. As they (ANC) have repeatedly said; they want to help Zanu PF stabilise the situation so that it can survive this crisis,” Gandawa said.