HARARE – The governance and human rights crisis in Zimbabwe will give a hard time to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, according to respected Zimbabwean political analyst.
Eldred Masunungure, a Political Science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe has said the governance and human rights crisis in Zimbabwe will give South African President tough challenges for any meaningful inroads.
Masunungure speaks when Ramaphosa who is the current chairperson of the African Union has already sent envoys to Zimbabwe to assess reports of human rights abuses by the state. Speaking to local daily news, Masunungure said:
He (Ramaphosa) cannot afford to fold his arms when a neighbour is burning … this is also an indication that the continent has heard the cries of Zimbabweans and there is an appetite to act.
Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party has reacted angrily to ANC secretary general Ace Magashule’s television interview, in which he said the governing party was engaging its fellow former liberation movement over widespread human rights abuses and repression.
“We note that this is not the first time a senior ANC leader has sought to speak like Zimbabwe’s prefect,” Zanu-PF spokesman and former finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said, pointing to similar comments in 2013 from current Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.
“Zanu-PF categorically states that Cde 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 Organization, our ministry of health and child care and what has become common practice on Covid-19.”
In the television interview, Magashule said President Cyril Ramaphosa was engaging his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa over the degenerating situation in his country.
“We see what is happening in Zimbabwe. The president is interacting with the president of Zimbabwe, worried about what is taking place there,” he said.
“We have spoken to some people who are exiled, who have run away from Zimbabwe. That is why we are interacting party to party to raise some of the concerns they have actually raised about what is happening in Zimbabwe.”
Chinamasa argued that the exiled Zimbabweans Magashule referred to were in fact criminals escaping justice in their country for crimes committed under former president Robert Mugabe.
“There is no Zimbabwean who was exiled to South Africa by our government nor the party. Referring to fugitives of justice who escaped this country to find a safe haven in South Africa as exiles, when they dodged various corruption crimes committed during the previous administration is not only hypocritical but absolute hogwash,” he said.
“To find therefore, a person of the stature of the secretary general of the ANC making such deplorable utterances on the basis of old videos some of which have been imported from situations outside Zimbabwe but attributed to Zimbabwe in the past, being resurrected by keyboard activists is an embarrassment not only to himself but the organization he represents.”
He pointed out that South Africa too had deployed its military onto the streets to enforce strict Covid-19 lockdown regulations, and that the SANDF had been accused of abusing non-compliant civilians.
“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 killed eight citizens in the streets during enforcement operations. Zanu-PF has not uttered a word in public,” said Chinamasa.
He also referred to the Marikana Massacre in the North West province in August 2012 when 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,” said Chinamasa.
“We however are taken aback by these latest irresponsible utterances by Cde Magashule, who by all means should have sought clarifications from his counterpart Cde Dr Obert Mpofu, the secretary for administration for Zanu-PF.”
He said Magashule had relied on information from “fortune-seeking” activist groups and “faceless social media posts” on issues about Zimbabwe.
The Zanu-PF spokesman said on several occasions, Zimbabweans based in South Africa had been subjected to systematic xenophobic attacks “with some ANC leaders spreading hostile messages that worsened those attacks against our people but we have sought to address that using the normal diplomatic channels”.
On Thursday, the presidency said Ramaphosa had appointed Dr Sydney Mufamadi and former speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete as his special envoys “to engage the government of Zimbabwe and relevant stakeholders to identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe”.
Ramaphosa made the move as Zimbabwe’s government scoffed at “false allegations” of human rights abuses, despite the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaign gaining momentum on social media platforms such as Twitter.
Zimbabwe’s permanent secretary for information Nick Mangwana said the allegations were being peddled by known political activists, misinformed individuals and global actors.
He said there was no crisis or implosion in the country, nor had there been any abduction or war on citizens, reiterating that Zimbabwe was merely enforcing Covid-19 lockdown regulations intended to safeguard and protect the lives of all citizens.
“Where necessary, the law has been fairly applied,” Mangwana said, insisting Zimbabwe was “peaceful” and all citizens were free to go about their business within the Covid-19 parameters.
“The deliberate attempt to smear the image of the country is betrayed by the use of doctored images, old video clips and highly exaggerated claims on social media – all intended to paint a picture of a burning Zimbabwe. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
In a week that President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to “flush out” his political opponents, a young Bulawayo woman was allegedly abducted, sexually assaulted and badly tortured. Twenty-three-year-old Noxolo Maphosa’s tormentors allegedly targeted her because they wanted to force her to reveal the whereabouts of Josphat “Mzaca” Ngulube.
Ngulube, who is Maphosa’s cousin, is one of over a dozen activists that were forced to go underground following a vicious crackdown by state security agents that were hunting for organisers of the July 31 protests.
Pictures of Maphosa taken after she was dumped near her house by her captors following a day of torture are chilling.
Her story mirrors that of 22-year-old Tawanda Muchehiwa, a nephew of Zimlive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu, who was allegedly abducted on July 30 by suspected state security agents.
Muchehiwa’s abductors, who held him for three days until the High Court ruled that the state must produce him within 72 hours, was accused of being involved in the planned protests.
The suspected state security operatives also wanted him to disclose Mathuthu’s whereabouts. The journalist, who like the incarcerated Hopewell Chin’ono, was instrumental in exposing the Drax International Covid-19 medical sundries scandal, is being pursued by the state over unclear charges.
A clear pattern, however, is emerging of a government that is determined to silence dissent even through callous means that include abductions and torture of citizens.
Mnangagwa’s labelling of Zimbabweans opposed to his style of leadership as bad apples, terrorists and rogues is incendiary.
The classification of citizens as enemies of the state has only served to unleash rogues to go about abducting and torturing innocent citizens.
Mnangagwa has a long history of using inflammatory language to characterise opponents of the ruling party and often what follows the pronouncements is a chilling violation of human rights.
His statements during the Gukurahundi era when he was State Security minister are often cited as one of the reasons that could have driven the murderous campaign by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
Since the formation of the MDC in 1999, Mnangagwa has at different platforms equated the opposition to the devil. Some people that opted to give him a chance when he took over the highest office in 2017, hoped he was a changed man.
As tensions rise in the country over an imploding economy, expectations were that as head of state, Mnangagwa would show statesmanship and rally Zimbabweans to unite.
Instead the opposite is happening and it does not bode well for Zimbabweans who heaved a sigh of relief only three years ago when Robert Mugabe’s murderous reign was ended by those that promised a new dispensation.