Pretoria - Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane visited the Zimbabwe embassy in Pretoria on Thursday, to push for dialogue with Harare authorities over massive human rights abuses blamed on security forces during the recent crackdown on protests.
During the brutal clampdown on the protests that were sparked by an astronomical hike in fuel prices, police and soldiers were filmed hunting down activists.
As many as 12 people were killed during the clampdown and 68 were treated for gunshot wounds. Authorities also shut down the internet and WhatsApp communications in the wake of widespread protests earlier this month.
Maimane said he will be travelling to Zimbabwe next week to meet government officials, civil society, opposition parties and labour representatives.
“Our intention has been to come and request that we have a safe passage next week as we travel into Zimbabwe," said Maimane.
The DA leader said he has written to the Zimbabwean presidency, "to meet, not only with the current government of Zanu-PF but to request a meeting with civil society, opposition leaders … because we need to go on a fact-finding mission to ensure that we are dealing with the status of democracy, to restore democracy. That is the fundamental issue here.”
“We also urge the South African government to take a much stronger stance against Zimbabwe. Any [financial] bailout to Zimbabwe must go towards humanitarian aid. We want to make sure hospitals are open, police services are functional, to ensure that systems of Zimbabwe continue to work.”
Maimane, however, did not meet Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi, during his visit.
Embassy officials prevented journalists and Zimbabwean activists from entering the mission.
The DA leader was accompanied by Stevens Mokgalapa, a Member of Parliament and the party’s shadow minister of international relations.
Zimbabwean activists Munyaradzi Shoko and leader of the Children of Zimbabwe War Veterans' Association, and #Tajamuka’s pro-democracy campaigner Elvis Mugari were with Maimane but were not allowed into the embassy.
Maimane said some Zimbabwean MPs and activists have fled to South Africa, where they are in hiding and are appealing for help and protection.
“Already, the number of deaths are turning up in Zimbabwe and we cannot allow this crisis to carry on. They [embassy officials] have given me assurance that they will deliver the letter to the Zimbabwean presidency," said Maimane.
"I expect a response within the next 48 hours to see when we go from this point, so that we can take safe, responsible action to restore democracy in Zimbabwe.”
He said the meeting with Zimbabwe embassy staff on Thursday was “successful”
“Certainly, they hosted us well,” said Maimane.
The DA leader lambasted the African National Congress delegation which has this week met Zanu-PF officials in Harare for turning a blind eye to the “calls of civil society, opposition and Zimbabweans in general who are crying for help”.
An ANC delegation was in Harare this week to meet their Zanu-PF counter[arts. The ANC delegation was led by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and included senior ANC officials Tony Yengeni, Thoko Didiza and Bongani Nongo.
The ANC delegation held meetings with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputies Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi.
“The ANC has met only with Zanu-PF. We are of the view that this is old alliances of the liberation movements. We must now stand firmly with the whole of Zimbabwe and ensure that democracy is strong,” said Maimane.
African News Agency (ANA)