Police had to use shock grenades to disperse protesters outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria on Friday. The protest was in response to arbitrary arrests of opposition MDC Alliance leaders and journalists in the country in the past week.
Zimbabweans living in South Africa, together with organisations like ZimbabweanLivesMatter, the NotInMyName Movement and Zimbabwean African Peoples Union gathered to protest against the perceived inaction of South Africa in the face of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe recently cracked down on protestors accusing government of corruption and economic mismanagement. Several people, including journalists and award-winning authors, have been arrested, and videos are circulating on social media of people being beaten by the police and the army.
The protest started peacefully in front of the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria. But pandemonium broke out as police officers dispersed protesters, saying they were contravening the national disaster regulations. Tempers flared when police used stun grenades.
Calls for President Ramaphosa to intervene
Protesters have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene as African Union Chair instead of delegating other government officials.
#NotInMyName president Siyabulela Jentile says, “It’s embarrassing that President Cyril Ramaphosa has been quiet about the situation in Zimbabwe and only yesterday did he announce his Special Envoys to Zimbabwe. When something happens in the Middle East, he is the first to talk. And don’t get us wrong, we sympathise with the people in Beirut.”
The youth leader of the Zimbabwean African People’s Union, Lloyd Ndiweni, says South Africa has been too quiet for too long regarding the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
“They want to comment about George Floyd who lives oceans away. Why are they quiet about our own people that are being murdered every day in Zimbabwe? The AU and SADC need to become a proper organisation and not be a gentlemen’s club. They must tell the truth as it is. No sweeping the issues under the ground. We want the government to be dissolved.”
This week, President Ramaphosa announced that former Government Minister, Sydney Mufamadi, and former National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, have been appointed as special envoys to Zimbabwe “to identify ways South Africa can assist that country to overcome its problems.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa drew widespread condemnation when his administration violently thwarted anti-corruption protests in Zimbabwe and arrested opposition party leaders and journalists.
Protesting Zimbabwean nationals expressed their disappointment at the silence of the Southern African Development Community, African Union and the United Nations.
Protesters picket against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe:
The Zimbabwean Embassy did not respond to requests from SABC for comment. -Additional reporting by Ofentse Setimo