Wednesday, 12 August 2020


SOUTH Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mphakama Mbete, has refuted claims that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s special envoys snubbed the country’s opposition and civil society organisations when they came to Harare on Monday.

Mbete told the Daily News yesterday that while the envoys had come to Zimbabwe with an open mind of engaging with other key local actors if the opportunity presented itself, their main mission on this visit was to meet with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

This comes after the envoys — former South African vice president Baleka Mbete and ex-ministers Sydney Mufamadi and Ngoako Ramatlhodi — returned home soon after meeting Mnangagwa for more than two hours at State House. 

This prompted some opposition parties and civil society groups to allege that the emissaries had been blocked from meeting them by Mnangagwa. 

The envoys were in Harare “to identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe” — amid rising tensions and allegations of gross human rights violations in the country. 

“The special envoys came to meet President Emmerson Mnangagwa and they were also open to meeting any other key actors, including members of the opposition and the civil society if the opportunity presented itself.

“In this case, however, they met with the head of State of Zimbabwe and decided to go back to South Africa and brief President Ramaphosa on their meeting.

“Their wish is to meet with other key actors in Zimbabwe and if an opportunity presents itself they will come back and meet them in future,” Mbete told the Daily News. 

The appointment of the envoys came after Zimbabwe had come under intense local, regional and international scrutiny over alleged human rights violations in the country — following the government’s heavy deployment of police and soldiers ahead of the failed July 31 mass protests.

“The special envoys are expected to engage the Government of Zimbabwe and relevant stakeholders to identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe,” Ramaphosa said last week when he announced their appointment. 

Soon after, presidential spokesperson George Charamba told the Daily News that Ramaphosa had conferred with Mnangagwa about the special envoys.

“The two leaders have been communicating and what you are seeing is a result of an agreement which they reached to send envoys into the country to discuss various issues. 

“That is how we do diplomacy. That is how it is done by following proper and clear channels.
“You don’t stand on top of a roof and shout whatever you want to see happen and expect to see things being done your way. That is not proper diplomacy,” Charamba said. 

“So, the president is very much aware of the visit. The envoys are coming and we are going to engage them and be as open as possible to what they have to say,” he added. 

Following the meeting with Mnangagwa on Monday, Mufamadi revealed that the envoys had discussed with Mnangagwa the country’s situation, as well as the possible solutions to its problems — adding that the finer details of the meeting would be availed later.

“Myself and two of my colleagues, Ms Baleka Mbete and Advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi, we came here as envoys of the president of the Republic of South Africa. 

“We had an exchange with his counterpart. In other words we listened to the rhythm of the situation and what is being done and the intentions to do extra things and so on.

“I know you will not ask us to report to our president through the media. We will be reporting to the president (Ramaphosa) who will then interact with the public, in part through you, in due course,” Mufamadi said.

But the MDC Alliance claimed that Mnangagwa had blocked the envoys to meet with them, despite an earlier commitment to do so.

Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said they had been formally requested to attend a meeting with the special envoys, but were surprised after being advised that the emissaries had departed without engaging with them.
“We can only assume that the failure to meet the MDC Alliance delegation was as a result of demands made by the Zanu PF delegation.

“We reiterate that Zimbabwe is in a state of crisis that has been characterised by a de facto state of emergency, a crackdown on citizens, abductions, arbitrary arrests of government critics and the political persecution of journalists,” Mahere said.

On its part, the interim MDC leadership headed by Thokozani Khupe said its planned meeting with the envoys had been deferred to a future date.

“As MDC-T we welcome this development (the envoys’ meeting with Mnangagwa) and remain positive that the two leaders in President Ramaphosa and President Mnangagwa will get to the bottom of the issues bedevilling our beautiful nation, and that Zimbabwe will once again experience unity, love and harmony,” the party said.

Some civil society actors and churches expressed hope that the envoys would push the country’s major political players to engage in dialogue and work together to end the country’s mounting political and economic crises.

“As the church, we have insisted that these issues need urgent attention.
“We are convinced that a comprehensive national settlement to all these issues should emerge from a broad-based and comprehensive national dialogue, not only among political actors, but one that includes all sectors of society. 

“Our hope is that the South African envoys and the whole global solidarity will catalyse the beginning of such a truthful, loving and mutually inclusive national dialogue process. 

“Let such global solidarity awaken the convergence of the agency to build the Zimbabwe we want,” the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) said. Daily News


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