South Africa opposition calls for intervention in Zimbabwe

Wednesday January 16 2019

Evan Mawarire

Zimbabwean cleric and activist Evan Mawarire (in yellow) enters a police car after he was seized at his home Harare following crackdown on anti-government protests on January 16, 2019. PHOTO | AFP 

PETER DUBE
By PETER DUBE
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South Africa’s main opposition parties Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have called on their government to intervene in the crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

The calls comes as Zimbabweans living in South Africa protested at their Pretoria Embassy on Wednesday.

Demonstrations which began on Monday in the capital Harare and second city Bulawayo following government’s decision to more than doubled fuel prices turned deadly after five people including a police officer were killed.

Streets in major cities have been deserted and businesses and schools remain closed on the third day of the unions’ called stay-at-home strike. The government also shut down the internet.

Hundreds of people including prominent Harare pastor and political activist Evan Mawarire, of the #ThisFlag fame to encourage Zimbabweans to speak out against Mugabe policies, have been arrested as the country faces the worst economic crisis in a decade.

The African Union and the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) are yet to issue statements on the Zimbabwe protests with President Emmerson Mnangagwa away on a five-nation foreign tour.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said South Africa, a key member of AU and SADC, and the second largest economy in Africa, cannot continue to remain silent on the tense situation.

“We can’t approach silent diplomacy. We have to go in there and intervene, and ultimately hold the Zimbabwean government to account. It’s a plight in the brotherhood that the African Union has become, where they refuse to stand up to each other and say what's happening in Zimbabwe is wrong,” Mr Maimane said.

Mr Julius Malema’s EFF issued a statement saying it “extends its solidarity” with the people of Zimbabwe.

“We call on the government of Zimbabwe to respond to these demonstrations with restraint. We particularly condemn the unleashing of military on citizens who are exercising their right to protest,” the party said.

“A democratic government knows too well that militaries are not entities used to respond to protesting, armless, and defenceless citizens. To unleash the military is to treat citizens as enemies of the state, who must be met with excessive violence, force and death, as militaries are death driven, only to be deployed to those who are armed and sworn enemies of the people.”

Zimbabwe is facing cash shortages that have plunged the economy into disarray.

Fuel, medicines and basic goods are in short supply with soldiers deployed to fuel stations and shops to keep order.

Zimbabwe uses US dollars after abandoning its currency in 2009 following a hyperinflation which hit 500 billion percent in 2008 and left the local currency worthless, wiping out savings and pensions.

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