The following statement was delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at a press briefing at Nkululeko House, the party’s HQ in Johannesburg. Maimane was joined by DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Stevens Mokgalapa.
The year 2019 has started off in the worst conceivable way for our northern neighbours in Zimbabwe. Today, the country finds itself on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. Widespread civilian suppression, military-led violence, and bloodshed has ensued, as Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF government has implemented what can only be described as a 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”. 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 in dire.
With the fall of the Mugabe regime, a sense of hope arose as change was promised by new President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa committed to doing things differently, and Zimbabweans believed this was indeed possible. However, over a year after Mnangagwa took office, nothing has changed.
The frustration and sense of betrayal saw Zimbabweans take to the streets and exercise their democratic right to protest joblessness, poverty, economic distress and exorbitant fuel increases. Unarmed civilians have been met by armed violence by government. And the current crisis has now reached boiling point.
Despite this humanitarian crisis, Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC government has sat on its hands and watched on, employing its “quiet diplomacy” policy. There has been no advocacy for the citizens, no justice for the deceased, and no protection of civil liberties for those who are currently detained. Last week, the DA approached President Ramaphosa,
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.
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. When Robert Mugabe – just like Jacob Zuma – become too toxic for the people to tolerate, they were simply discarded in favour for someone more palatable. But around him nothing else changes. This is not the change the people of both countries desperately need.
As Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), I would like to make it clear that we will stand with the people of Zimbabwe and fight against the oppression and murder of innocent Zimbabweans who are mobilising and calling for change. You have many friends in South Africa. Beyond your borders you have millions of allies in your fight for a free and open society.
Therefore, the DA will pursue a set of immediate interventions to resolve the current crisis occurring in Zimbabwe. The injustice that is occurring in Zimbabwe cannot be ignored.
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.
In addition to this, the DA will:
- Write to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to request an investigation into the conduct of the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe as per Article 15 of the Rome Statute. The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor is empowered by the Rome Statute to “…determine whether there is sufficient evidence of crimes of sufficient gravity falling within the ICC’s jurisdiction, whether there are genuine national proceedings, and whether opening an investigation would serve the interests of justice and of the victims”.
- Formally 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 in accordance with its mandate to protect human rights around the world.
- Urgently request a joint meeting of the the South African Parliament’s portfolio committees on Home Affairs, International Relations and Cooperation, Police, and Defence and Military Veterans to deliberate on the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.
- Request the National Assembly to urgently debate the impact of the violence by Zimbabwean government on South Africa. It is vital that Parliament considers, debates and deliberates on this matter, and seeks collective solutions in light of the President’s failure to act. The urgent motion reads as follows: “In light of the Zimbabwean Government having unleashed unprecedented violence on Zimbabwean citizens who are protesting against a crippling fuel hike which has more than doubled fuel prices; the internet blackout which has left the Zimbabwean people isolated; and the unconstitutional deployment of the army by the Zimbabwean Government; this house debates the human rights abuses of Zimbabwean citizens by the Zimbabwean Government and the impact thereof on regional stability, and South Africa specifically.”
Furthermore, now that South Africa will hold a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the term 2019 – 2020, we challenge President Ramaphosa to use our position on the UNSC to advance liberal democracy and stand up for justice, freedom and human rights across the globe. The ANC government’s voting record at the UN tells a worrying story of siding with dictators and thug-governments. This must change.
Our continent must soon come to the realisation that liberation movements never make good governments. Not here in Zimbabwe. Not south of the border in South Africa. And not anywhere on this continent.
Africa does not need backward looking leaders or parties that were once glorious. We need people and parties who can imagine Africa’s future and potential. We don’t need politicians who are only in it for themselves – big, self-important men who see government as a way of becoming rich. We need selfless leaders who understand what it means to serve.
We need change across the continent – change that removes corrupt liberation movement governments and ensures that the 21st Century is the century in which Africa gains its true freedom.