Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane called on the South Africa to intervene in Zimbabwe where the military and police, under a complete internet shutdown, launched a brutal door-to-door clampdown targeting government critics on Tuesday.
Maimane told the Cape Town Press Club that the South African government can no longer remain silent on the tensions in Zimbabwe, where doctors said close to 30 people were treated for gunshot wounds
“We can’t approach the latest crisis with silent diplomacy. We’ve to go in there and intervene, and ultimately hold the Zimbabwean government to account,” Maimane said.
“It’s a blight on the brotherhood, what the African Union has become, where they refuse to stand up to each other and say what’s happening in Zimbabwe is wrong.”
Security forces patrolled high density suburbs in Harare, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza after Monday’s protests against fuel price increases.
Human rights groups said soldiers in uniform were targeting young men suspected to have participated in the protests that left at least five people dead. Police said they had made over 200 arrests after some shops were looted and arsonists targeted a police station and the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change in Harare.
The widespread unrest over the country’s deteriorating economic crisis came after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called on Zimbabweans to stay away from work starting Monday until Wednesday. The call has been largely heeded, with urban centres looking like ghost towns on Tuesday.
The increase to more $3,31 for a litre of petrol and $3,11 for diesel, announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last Saturday, has ignited simmering fury over a currency crisis that has imposed severe shortages and forced businesses to close.
The crisis has undermined Mnangagwa’s pledge that Zimbabwe was “open for business” since he replaced Robert Mugabe, the post-independence strongman who presided over economic decline and fell in a 2017 coup.
Mnangagwa is in Russia, where he is reported to be seeking loans. Western countries have turned away from the former security chief following the violent suppression last year of claims that the ruling Zanu PF rigged Mnangagwa’s presidential election victory.
In Moscow, Mnangagwa defended the fuel price increase as necessary. “It will take time for things to settle and results to be shown,” he said. At the same time his government unleashed the fiercest crackdown since the July election.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwean social media users said they were unable to access WhatsApp, Twitter and other services. NetBlocks, an international civil society group, said the shutdown widened to a full internet blackout later on Tuesday.
“This is a polarising set of actions by the state. They are faced with a situation they do not know how to control at the economic level,” Piers Pigou, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said.
The US dollar is the main benchmark currency used in Zimbabwe since 2009 but there are crippling shortages of the currency, throttling the ability to pay for imports.
Surrogate dollars, known as bond notes, introduced by the government have collapsed against the value of the real thing in black market trading, driving up prices as wages stagnate. Electronic US dollars in the financial system lack physical backing, undermining confidence in the government’s insistence that all dollars are equal.
Additional reporting Financial Times