Critics blast SA govt for not taking action on Zimbabwe crisis

Protesters run from a stun grenade fired by police outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa's Pretoria. AFP/Phill Magakoe

South Africa’s envoys ‘have only succeeded in maintaining the status quo by stroking the proverbial crocodile in the hopes it will become a vegetarian’.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu will have to consult with the special envoy to Zimbabwe before publicly commenting about the unrest in the neighboring country again. This as critics blast the ruling ANC for not doing enough in condemning the violence against civilians at the hands of security forces in the neighbouring state.

After an explosive eNCA interview in which she referred to recent protest action and subsequent violent police and military response in Zimbabwe as a “political crisis”, Zulu’s office told The Citizen she will be consulting special envoys Sydney Mufamadi and Baleka Mbete, who met with Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday, before commenting on the impact of instability in that country.

On Monday, Zulu said of the situation: “There is a crisis in Zimbabwe, there is an implosion, the military are everywhere suffocating people’s rights, and people are being abducted, tortured, and sexually abused so leadership is required of the region of Cyril Ramaphosa.”

Meanwhile President Cyril Ramaphosa’s neutral approach to the “political crisis” which has left scores of civilians, activists and journalists dead, missing or arrested, was criticised by prominent figutes who felt South Africa could be more pragmatic and bold in its approach. Unions and civil society organisations have been staging protests around Zimbabwe against corruption and Mnangagwa’s decisions on economic policy.

CEO of BMF Investments and former president of the Chamber of Mines, Bheki Sibiya, notes with concern that little appears to have taken place as a result of South Africa’s efforts to help mitigate the crisis. He calls on business, unions and the South African government to all play a role in putting out the political flames in the country which will soon be licking at South Africa’s borders.

The “quiet diplomacy” of yesteryear is no longer an option any of the nations can afford, he argues.

Mbete and Mufamadi were reportedly barred from speaking with opposition parties as part of efforts to help mitigate the crisis. Not engaging all the relevant stakeholders from the onset it a mistake, says Sibiya.

“Our former president Thabo Mbeki with his quiet diplomacy was not helpful. Then came Zuma and his see-no-evil, say-no-evil, do-no-evil attitude did not help. And then there is Cyril Ramaphosa’s diplomacy which I do not understand,” he says, arguing that the mission to Zimbabwe has so far take a partisan form from the outside looking in.

“I think it was almost better than if they had not gone. They have only succeeded in maintaining the status quo by stroking the proverbial crocodile in the hopes it will become a vegetarian. Mnangagwa has been nicknamed ‘the crocodile’ and you don’t stroke a crocodile when you want to transform things, you need to come up with a different method. At the moment our involvement with Zimbabwe has not been helpful.”

Sibiya warns that it is up to leaders from all spheres of society, from state to unions, to all involve themselves in the mitigation process, otherwise South Africans and Zimbabweans will suffer in the end.

“When things are bad in Zimbabwe, the people emigrate to South Africa, whether the do so through legal means or through the corrupt means of crossing the border, as it were. We can’t do that anymore, we can no longer afford it as much as we would like to. We need to have an honest conversation with the government of Zimbabwe and involve opposition parties, ruling parties, unions in resolving what has become a basket case when it used to be the bread basket of the region.”

Black First Land First (BLF) leader Andile Mgxitama says the Southern African Development Community (SADC) leadership let the people of Zimbabwe down by allowing the undermining of democracy in the country, from the military action which led to the resignation of the late former president Robert Mugabe in 2016 to the subsequent election of Mnangagwa into power, under a cloud of suspicion over the election process.

“The coup has deepened the political and economic and democratic crisis of Zimbabwe. The only way out is a political settlement which will recognise that the democratic process has been subverted by the coup. There must be a transitional government which is inclusive of all the political forces in Zimbabwe. There must be a return of the exiles and general amnesty and the freeing of political detainees in Zimbabwe.”

Simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

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