BY MOSES MATENGA
Prominent South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane believes President Cyril Ramamphosa’s special envoys appointed to find ways of solving political problems in Zimbabwe are too compromised to lead a credible process,
Maimane, the former leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), alongside Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, last week threw their weight behind the #ZimbabweLivesMatter campaign that jolted Ramaphosa to act.
The South African leader, who is also the African Union chairperson, appointed former deputy president Baleka Mbete and ex-Security minister Sydney Mufamadi to investigate the problems in Zimbabwe in the wake of a crackdown against dissent.
Mbete and Mufamadi are expected in Zimbabwe soon to meet the country’s leadership and other “stakeholders”, but Maimane said nothing much should be expected from the two.
“The process of beginning dialogue on the Zimbabwean human rights crisis is a necessary starting point, but it must be done in a manner that is transparent and credible,” the former DA leader told The Standard in an exclusive interview yesterday.
“There are some issues with the envoy head Baleka Mbete and as it has been announced.
“(President) Emmerson Mnangagwa has described Baleka Mbete as a good friend of his and has even gone so far as to say she helped arrange his escape to South Africa during the 2017 coup. This does not create a credible case for her being an impartial actor.
“Furthermore, SA’s ambassador to Harare, Mphakama Mbete, is Baleka Mbete’s brother and he has been quiet during the arrests of journalists, activists and civilians.
“The relationship between the Mbete family and the Mnangagwa regime is one that creates reasonable questions of their capacity to act with impartiality and in the interests of the people.”
Maimane said Mufamadi, who was part of former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s mediation in Zimbabwe in 2008, showed bias against the opposition.
“In addition to the issue of potential bias, there is also the issue of conflict of interest, Dr Mufumadi is the chairman of Zimplats which is the largest platinum mining operation in Zimbabwe, it reasonably will be difficult for him to act in ways, which could sour the relationship between the government and the mining company he represents,” he added.
“Rather than a sham envoy with no credibility and ambiguous terms of reference, we need a robust envoy with representatives from the Economic Freedom Fighters, United Democratic Movement, Democratic Alliance and Inkatha Freedom Party.”
Zanu PF on Friday said it was closing ranks with South Africa’s ruling ANC to thwart alleged attempts to demonise liberation movements in the region.
The Zimbabwean government claims that allegations that security forces have been violating rights of citizens in the wake of the July 31 protests are false.
Maimane said there was a pattern of human rights violations in Zimbabwe that started a year ago.
“When you then also consider the response to protests by the government in January 2019, where the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reports show that 17 people were killed, 17 women were raped and thousands were victims of violence, it is clear that there is a pattern of oppression by the government of Zimbabwe towards its citizens,” he said.
“In January of 2019 the government even went so far as to shut down the internet and only turned it back on after a global outcry.”
He said the international community and Zimbabwe’s neighbours should not remain quiet while citizens’ rights were being violated.
“It is imperative that civilians be allowed to speak freely and to participate in political discourse online and offline without fear of reprisals,” Maimane added.
“It is imperative that journalists must be free to work without fear of being attacked by government.
“It is imperative that the rights of political parties and movements must not be trampled on under the guise of Covid-19 management, we have seen that protests can be done in keeping with social distancing and other medical advice on virus mitigation.
“The global community must be very vocal in making sure that these universal human rights are upheld by the Mnangagwa government.”