Pretoria – Despite being denied permission to protest at the South African embassy in Harare, Zimbabwean opposition parties under the banner of National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) vowed on Tuesday that they would not back down in their bid to express displeasure at the way Pretoria officials handled the saga involving Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe.
By Josinayi Maromo
“We are inevitably enraged by the police’s [Zimbabwe Republic Police] decision, but nevertheless, we have since forwarded the matter to human rights lawyers for assistance. In any case, the demonstration will proceed as scheduled,” Nera spokesperson Davis Junior Mukushwa told the African News Agency (ANA).
In documents seen by ANA, a chief superintendent J Chizemo of the ZRP’s Harare central police district this week wrote to the Nera Youth Forum, led by Tawanda Kalonga, acknowledging “the notice to peacefully demonstrate” at the South African embassy on Wednesday [August 30]. Chizemo then indicates to the opposition forum that they did not comply with sections of the country’s Public Order and Security Act.
Undeterred, Mukushwa said the protests would hit the SA embassy because the Pretoria-government dropped the ball when it allowed President Robert Mugabe’s wife to leave South Africa after she was granted diplomatic immunity, this after a charge of assault was laid against the First Lady by a young Johannesburg model, Gabriella Engels.
“We feel betrayed by the South African justice system, particularly the department of international relations and cooperation. Facts are clear, that Grace Mugabe was not on any formal or official government of Zimbabwe business. The granting of the diplomatic immunity was that abusive of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations and a gross undermining UDHR [the United Nations’ Unilateral Declarations for Human Rights] provisions,” said Mukushwa.
He said the “African National Congress-led government politicised a purely criminal and civil matter”.
“The general populace [in Zimbabwe] which finds Grace to be untouchable on the domestic terrain always hoped that the South African justice system was going to be exemplary. But we notice that more than human freedoms and liberties, the ANC government sought to preserve its historical ties with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and government. Diplomatic immunity should never be used to perpetuate impunity. If Grace cannot be tried at home for evicting helpless farmers in Mazowe, at least she must face trial for grievously assaulting Gabiella Engels,” Mukushwa charged.
“We wish to call upon all pro-democratic forces in South Africa, including AfriForum, to escalate the pressure of bringing justice to Gabriella. We must stand up to tyranny.”
Mukushwa said whether the demonstrations took place or not at the South African embassy in Harare was not entirely a ZRP constituency.
“In terms of the Zimbabwe Constitution, the police should be notified of an intention to hold a peaceful demonstration. They have no constitutional mandate to clear or to deny demonstrations. The police are using an old draconian statute, the Public Order and Security Act, to suppress any form of political activism, demonstrations included. In the event that the police insist on denying our forum the chance to [to protest at the SA embassy], we will file an urgent high court chamber application for a court order to proceed,” said Mukushwa.
He vowed that opposition parties were pushing to overturn the police decision and converge at the SA embassy in the upmarket Belgravia suburb in Harare on Wednesday.
On the same day, Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF is set to march in Harare in a “solidarity march for the First Lady, Dr Grace Mugabe”, who is also the party’s women’s league national chairperson.
“We shall stand by our mother regardless. We shall fall and rise together as we bond forever and ever, and continue to display our love and care in the spirit of familyhood,” said one alert for the mass protests, purportedly from a Harare province secretary for information.