Former SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) chief operating officer, Chris Maroleng and a team of researchers who were in Zimbabwe doing field work ahead of the national elections next week, have been deported from the country.
Maroleng is now the chief executive officer of Good Governance Africa (GGA), a non-profit organisation with offices in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, which conducts targeted research and aims to promote better governance on the continent to improve lives.
Maroleng said they had lined up interviews with high profile stakeholders in Bulawayo and Harare as part of their field work and research for the elections which take place next Wednesday.
The GGA team said they had followed all the necessary protocols with Zimbabwean authorities in Pretoria, but they were met with “tyranny”.
The team was visited by immigration officials at their Bulawayo hotel, before they were taken to the immigration offices, before they were told to leave Zimbabwe immediately.
They were escorted to their hotel and to the airport.
“We cannot afford to be silent in the face of such tyranny. This incident is a wake-up call for all Zimbabweans to rise up against the oppressive forces that seek to undermine their democratic rights and aspirations.
“We must channel our anger into action, demanding accountability,” said Maroleng on Twitter.
He said the deportation was indicative of “bad governance” after the GGA had also received a supporting letter from the Southern Africa Political and Economy Series (SAPES Trust) which is based in Harare and chaired by Professor Ibbo Mandaza.
“This is a call for the people of Zimbabwe to rise up against tyranny and demand the change they so desperately deserve.
“Our purpose in Zimbabwe was noble and clear - to conduct vital field research on election conditions and challenges. We followed all the necessary protocols.
“But what awaited us was a shocking and horrifying ordeal. It served as a brutal reminder of the bullying tactics employed by the Zanu-PF-led government, as they seek to stifle dissent and silence any voices that dare to challenge their autocratic rule,” he said.
"We are shocked and dismayed by this turn of events, but not surprised, as the pattern of bullying, anti-democratic behaviour by the Zanu-PF-led government - especially in the run-up to elections - is well documented," said Maroleng.
Zimbabweans will take to the polls on Wednesday.
Zimbabweans living in South Africa have been implored to go home and vote, with plans made to ferry them in 500 buses across the Lebombo border.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean companies – among them the local unit of South Africa-listed Nampak – are holding their breath as business uncertainty pervades the southern African country ahead of elections next week.
Bitter disputes, most of them spilling into the courts, over the electoral framework have marred Zimbabwe ahead of the August 23 poll.
Business Report reported that the main opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change accused the ruling Zanu-PF of abusing the judiciary and other state arms to side-line and frustrate rivals ahead of the crucial poll.