SOUTH AFRICA on Thursday reacted to pressure from Zimbabweans with President Cyril Ramaphosa sending envoys to Harare.
Ramaphosa seconded former Security minister Sydney Mufamadi and former Vice-President Baleka Mbete “to engage the government of Zimbabwe and relevant stakeholders to identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe”.
The South African leader said he took the decision “following recent reports of difficulties that Zimbabwe is experiencing”.
However, the appointment of the two raised eyebrows amid reports that Mbete was Mnangagwa’s “personal friend” who helped him settle temporarily in South Africa after he was fired as Vice-President by the late former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
Mnangagwa fled to South Africa claiming there were threats on his life and in his narration of events, he said: “Mbete is a good friend of mine. So she came to where I was hiding and she told President Jacob Zuma that I was there.”
South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said Mbete’s brother was South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe and has remained quiet despite a glaring crisis.
Maimane called for an inclusive team to act on the Zimbabwean crisis.
“SA’s ambassador to Harare, Mphakama Mbete, is Baleka Mbete’s brother. He has been quiet during the arrests of journalists. Sydney Mufamadi did not speak to opposition in 2007. Rather than a sham envoy, we need a robust envoy with representatives from the Economic Freedom Fighters, United Democratic Movement (UDM), Democratic Alliance and Inkatha Freedom Party.”
Maimane said this was not time for friends to “have tea” in the midst of a crisis.
“We can’t be having friends having tea while the following happens, investigative journalists are arrested, activists are silenced, opposition victimised,” Maimane said.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said it was now time for Sadc to intervene and rescue Zimbabwe into a peaceful country after several years of human rights abuses and fighting.
“It is time for Sadc to intervene in Zimbabwe to help them find solutions, reconciliation and peace. Things can’t go on like this,” he said.
“The protests, abductions of government critics and rhetoric are exacerbating instability in Zimbabwe and its neighbouring countries continue to be affected as Zimbabweans keep fleeing their country in search of safety and relief from their economic circumstances.”
“As matters stand, the UDM calls on Sadc to intervene and assist Zimbabweans to find a solution to the crisis intensifying in their country.”
Calls for the Zimbabwean crisis to be discussed at next week’s Sadc Heads of State Summit to be held virtually and hosted by Mozambique have grown louder as the region remains convinced that the country is in a mess.
South Africa said it was concerned by reports of rights violations in Zimbabwe and its International Relations minister Naledi Pandor on Tuesday engaged her Zimbabwean counterpart Sibusiso Moyo over the issue.
The Harare crisis has hogged international spotlight with the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter trending and getting the attention of global celebrities, organisations and leaders.
Zanu PF has, however, reacted angrily to African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Ace Magashule’s comments during a televised interview that the South African ruling party was concerned with the crisis in Zimbabwe amid growing human rights abuses.
The ruling party accused the ANC of interfering and acting like Zimbabwe’s “prefect”.
“We note that this is not the first time a senior ANC leader has sought to speak like Zimbabwe’s prefect,” Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa said.
“Zanu PF categorically states that Magashule’s utterances were completely out of order.
“For the record, there is no brutality of whatever form happening in Zimbabwe, but enforcement of lockdown regulations in line with recommendations by the World Health Organisation, our Ministry of Health and Child Care and what has become common practice on COVID-19.”
He added: “We have seen on social media, videos of South African soldiers beating their non-compliant citizens using fists and sjamboks while in some regrettable circumstances, we have seen them spraying rubber bullets on their citizens resulting in serious injuries and deaths, to the extent that it has been reported that members of the SANDF (South African National Defence Force) killed eight citizens in the streets during enforcement operations. Zanu PF has not uttered a word in public.”
He also referred to the Marikana massacre in the North West province in August 2012 where police opened fire on striking mine workers.
“We have watched Marikana massacres that remain unprecedented since the turn of the millennium by government forces, but we have sought to respect South Africa’s capacity and right to deal with those matters internally,” Chinamasa said.
“We, however, are taken aback by these latest irresponsible utterances by Magashule, who by all means should have sought clarifications from his counterpart Obert Mpofu.”
He said Magashule had relied on information from “fortune-seeking” activist groups and “faceless social media posts” on issues about Zimbabwe.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba accused the exiled members of the Zanu PF faction better known as the G40 of lying to South Africans about the situation back home.
“I hope you are aware that in that statement that same secretary-general was attacking his own President. There is just too much manipulation of statements for propaganda purposes,” Charamba said.
“This is a man who is facing charges around procurement of PPE (personal protective equipment) in South Africa and that is public. He has a bone to chew with his organisation and its leadership.
“We don’t get misled by errant statements from someone who is roguish, we don’t.”