President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday has appointed Dr Sydney Mufamadi and former speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete as his special envoys to Zimbabwe, following reports of a human rights crisis in that country, the presidency said in a statement.
“The special envoys are expected to engage the government of Zimbabwe and relevant stakeholders to identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe,” the presidency said.
Earlier, African News Agency reported that the government of Zimbabwe has scoffed at “false allegations” of human rights abuses and a crisis in the country as the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaign gains momentum on social media platforms, including Twitter.
Zimbabwe’s permanent secretary in the Information Ministry, Nick Mangwana, said the widespread allegations were being peddled by known political activists, misinformed individuals and global actors, the report said.
“To set the record straight, there is no crisis or implosion in Zimbabwe. Neither has there been any abduction or war on citizens. Like any other country in the world, Zimbabwe has been 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 in the report.
“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.”
Mangwana said Zimbabwe is “peaceful and all citizens are free” to go about their business as usual, within the Covid-19 parameters.
“His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s second republic believes in upholding the rule of law and freedom of speech. Indeed, it is this freedom of speech that is unfortunately being abused by those who seek to push a sinister political agenda,” he said.
The #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaign on Twitter has been gaining momentum, with global celebrities and political activists in South Africa and across the world denouncing the Harare government and calling for an end to alleged repression and crushing of dissent by the Mnangagwa-led government.
There has been growing pressure for the South African government to intervene in what activists termed “shrinking democratic space”.
In South Africa, civil rights movement #NotInMyName this week announced that it will on Friday lead a picket at the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria to highlight what it termed “a disappearance of democratic space” in South Africa’s northern neighbour, the ANA report says.
“It is evident that the Zimbabwean regime is hell-bent on subverting our civil liberties and the country’s constitution through thwarting and prosecuting dissenting voices. As #NotInMyName International, we will thus be picketing at the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria on Friday,” secretary-general Themba Masango was quoted saying.
The Mnangagwa government has faced heightened criticism in the wake of the arrests of several citizens, including journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, charged with sabotage after reporting about an anti-government protest planned for last Friday, and award-winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga, who was picked up while participating in the march.
The spokesperson for Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Fadzayi Mahere, was arrested for allegedly inciting public violence.
Mufamadi was minister of provincial and local government from 1999 to 2008, and served as minister of safety and security in the government of national unity after the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994.
Mbete is also a former deputy president of South Africa and former chairperson of the ANC.
The President’s special envoys will leave for Zimbabwe as soon as all the arrangements are made, the presidency said.