Wednesday 20 February 2019


South Africa is planning to supply Zimbabwe with non-lethal crowd control equipment to help it avoid deaths in dealing with protests like those which erupted in January.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Tuesday that this was one of the measures Pretoria was considering to help its neighbour manage its current political and economic crisis.

She said at a media briefing in Pretoria that non-lethal crowd control equipment would “lessen the spillover in dealing with unhappy people”.

Six Zimbabwean citizens were shot dead, apparently by soldiers, in protests in Harare which erupted in August 2018, directly after the controversial elections which were officially won by Zanu-PF. And human rights groups have estimated that about 10 people died in protests in January 2019, sparked by a 150% increase in fuel prices.

Sisulu told Daily Maverick in an interview on Tuesday that Zimbabwe’s problem was that because the police lacked the proper equipment to control crowds non-lethally, they were handing over the responsibility to the army which only had live ammunition for dealing with protests.

So supplying Zimbabwe with equipment such as water cannon and tear gas could save lives.

Sisulu was asked at the briefing if South Africa or the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had raised with Zimbabwe the allegations by many human rights activists that, apart from the shooting of protesters, Zimbabwe security forces had brutalised many more civilians during the January 2019 protests.

She replied that SADC leaders had asked Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to brief them when they met this month on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

They had asked him to explain what was happening in his country “and what we could do to help establish normalcy.”

Sisulu insisted in the Daily Maverick interview that SADC leaders had also quizzed Mnangagwa about the alleged human rights abuses. But she added that she was not at liberty to divulge the content of what was a confidential conversation.

Sisulu would also not elaborate on a financial rescue package for Zimbabwe which her government is negotiating with Zimbabwe, saying this was the responsibility of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.

South Africa and SADC have also been criticised for too readily accepting the results of the December presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Felix Tshisekedi was officially declared the winner but the Catholic church, which had deployed tens of thousands of election monitors to almost all polling stations, and others, believe that Martin Fayulu won by a landslide.

In her media briefing, Sisulu heavily stressed the peacefulness of the election rather than its democratic credibility. For instance, in her prepared statement, she congratulated the people of the DRC “for a peaceful transition of power”, adding in her remarks that this had been the first such in 59 years. She contrasted this with the 2011 election which she had observed as defence minister, which she said had been very violent.


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