BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
SOUTH AFRICAN President Cyril Ramaphosa’s special six-member delegation, which left Harare on Wednesday after a closed-door meeting with top Zanu PF officials, has painted a gloomy picture of the situation in Zimbabwe, rubbishing claims by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government that all is well.
One of the delegates, Toni Yengeni, who heads the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party’s peace and stability committee, told journalists on landing at Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria that it was risky to allow the situation in Zimbabwe to fester.
“There are problems in Zimbabwe, major challenges both of social, economic and to some extent of a political nature,” Yengeni told SABC journalists.
Head of delegation, ANC’s secretary-general Ace Magashule echoed similar sentiments, although he was a bit ‘measured’.
“We have agreed that there were challenges in Zimbabwe that must be confronted. As liberation movements, we should respect human rights. We respect freedom of association and freedom of speech,” Magashule said.
He told the South African media that they would fly back to Harare in a few weeks where they would meet with other stakeholders including civil society, opposition members and the church to get to the bottom of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
ANC’s international relations committee chairperson Lindiwe Zulu rubbed in saying, “..we had to put all those issues on the table, issues of human rights and others… we went beyond that. Unless we are frank with each other, it won’t help the situation. I can assure you, it was a meeting with a difference.”
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She said the two parties were honest to each other in the meeting that started in the morning and stretched into the evening.
She said they would soon report back to ANC and organise to meet other stakeholders in the Zimbabwean crisis or even invite them to South Africa for talks aimed at unlocking the country’s political logjam.
Other members of the delegation included ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe, Defence minister Nosiviwe Nqakula and national executive committee member Enoch Godongwana.
Zanu PF officials have, however, vehemently denied that there is a crisis in the country, describing the meeting with their ANC counterparts as cordial.
In a statement after the meeting with the South African delegation, Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu said they discussed several issues of mutual interest to the two liberation movements, but could not shed more light.
Mpofu further said there was no crisis in the country, adding that fugitives who fled the country were abusing social media platforms painting a gloomy picture about Zimbabwe.
The Zanu PF delegation was led by Mpofu and it included Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (secretary for external affairs), July Moyo (secretary for transport), Sibusiso Moyo (politburo member and Foreign Affairs minister), Central Intelligence Organisation director-general Isaac Moyo, who is a former ambassador to Pretoria, and other senior party officials.
The visit by the ANC was described as a wasted trip by South African opposition member Mmusi Maimane who said the delegates should have met all stakeholders after failing to meet them on the initial trip last month. Before the envoys departed South Africa, Maimane had urged them to meet the opposition and every stakeholder in Zimbabwe’s multifaceted crisis.
“If Zanu PF doesn’t like that, it’s not like that’s the end of the story. This matter can still and rightfully still be considered officially by the African Union and even the UN Security Council. The atmosphere of fear and repression must be broken forever,” Maimane said.
But the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), however, rubbished ANC meditation efforts saying the South African delegation only offered solidarity to the Zanu PF party and the people of Zimbabwe need to liberate themselves from the mess in the country.
“People must distinguish solidarity from agency; South Africa is saying the struggle to find a lasting solution to Zimbabwe belongs to Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans must collectively find consensus on problem definition, possible solutions and mutually acceptable processes towards realising those solutions,” ZCC secretary-general Kenneth Mtata said. He added that neighbours including South Africa could only provide much-needed regional, continental and global solidarity.
“Neighbours including South Africa can only provide much-needed regional, continental and global solidarity. Solidarity doesn’t replace agency. Remember Steve Biko’s advice to the Liberal White supporters during the struggle against apartheid.
“Always remember that the one who liberates you will seek to have a stake over your freedom. We are still struggling to show that we all contributed to the liberation struggle as others want to monopolise it. We must be our own liberators and it starts with the mind,” Mtata said.