A South African opposition leader has claimed over 130 000 Zimbabweans fled the country to South Africa as the army launched a crackdown following chaotic protests that were marred by looting and destruction of infrastructure.
Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane made the claim Monday while addressing a press conference at Nkululeko House, the party`s headquarters in South Africa, where he revealed his plans to travel to Harare this week to engage MDC leader Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti.
In a scathing attack on the Harare administration, Maimane accused President Mnangagwa of “dictator-like military clampdown on citizens, which has to date claimed the lives of at least 12 people”.
“Citizens have been shot and killed, homes have been raided and the entire country is effectively on lockdown. According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, at least 12 people have been killed, 78 shot at, and 240 faced what the NGO has termed “assault, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment,” he said.
“And Zimbabweans are fleeing their country, as we are told by border officials that over 130 000 people crossed the Zimbabwean/South African border in a single day in mid-January. The situation is dire”.
Maimane added that President Mnangagwa wasted a good opportunity to bring change to the country after the fall of long time leader president Robert Mugabe in November 2017, which resulted in citizens taking to the streets “and exercise their democratic right to protest joblessness, poverty, economic distress and exorbitant fuel increases”.
The firebrand politician also fired a salvo at South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa for failing to rein in his Zimbabwean counterpart.
“For President Ramaphosa and his ANC, maintaining the brotherhood of “big man politics” across the continent is more important than the dignity, livelihood and human rights of fellow human beings. From Zimbabwe, to Zambia, to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – the ANC has chosen oppressors over the oppressed,” he charged.
“This is because Ramaphosa and Mnangagwa are cut from the same cloth. And South Africa and Zimbabwe share very similar stories. Within months of each other, both Zimbabwe and South Africa found themselves with new presidents who seemingly offered their countries a clean slate.
“However, for the people of South Africa – like the people of Zimbabwe – there has been no new beginning. There has been no new dawn. It was simply an act of window dressing designed to keep the power and the patronage in-house”.
Maimane said his party will come up with a number of interventions to the Zimbabwean crisis, including lobbying the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Zimbabwean government.
They also plan to approach the United Nations (UN) Commissioner on Human Rights requesting the intervention of the United Nations Human Rights Council in the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe.
Maimane added that he will travel to Zimbabwe and meet with local opposition leaders to “seek practical solutions”.
“Firstly, in my capacity as Chairperson of the Southern African Partnership for Democratic Change (SAPDC), I will pay a working visit to Zimbabwe this week. I will meet with current opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, and former MDC leader, Tendai Biti, among others.
“The purpose of this visit is to seek practical solutions to the ongoing crisis, and garner support across the region for much needed intervention in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Chamisa`s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda had promised to comment on the visit but had not done so by the time of publication.