South Africa’s Mmusi Maimane calls on ED to release Chin’ono, respect rights

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City Press

One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has asked Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to release investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and to respect the rights of citizens to protest.

Chin’ono was arrested at his home more than two weeks ago for allegedly inciting public violence.

His arrest came after he exposed alleged government corruption in the procurement of Covid-19 coronavirus supplies.

The call comes after Mnangagwa posted on Twitter that his government was working towards rebuilding and improving the lives of Zimbabweans. Maimane, who has been leading appeals for intervention in Zimbabwe, asked well known entertainers to raise awareness about the situation there.

He also wrote to International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor calling for her to issue a démarche against Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa David Hamadziripi.

Maimane said as the leader in the Southern African Development Community, South Africa could not turn a blind eye on what is happening in the neighbouring country, adding that quiet diplomacy allowed injustices to continue unabated.

Last week, planned protests in Zimbabwe were thwarted by the deployment of the army and police and arrests of activists and opposition party leaders.

Among those arrested was Mathembe Msipha from Bulawayo for carrying the Zimbabwean flag. Award-winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga and MDC Alliance spokesperson advocate Fadzayi Mahere were among those detained and charged with “incitement to commit violence”. They were both released on bail after spending the night in police cells.

Maimane called on President Cyril Ramaphosa, as African Union (AU) chairperson, to help Zimbabweans. On Tuesday, Maimane accused Ramaphosa and the AU of failing to promote and protect human rights on the continent, which is the organisation’s mandate.

In his statement, Maimane said South Africa had failed Zimbabwe when it “watched former president Robert Mugabe stay in power after he lost an election”.

“Keeping Mugabe in power when he had lost an election was our initial failure. Furthermore, when atrocities were committed under president Mugabe, South Africa kept quiet. Now it is happening under the current regime. I call it regime, frankly, because of the atrocities they are committing.

“In short, one can safely say South Africa has failed to lead Africa, and South Africa has ridiculously failed on Zimbabwe. Quiet diplomacy on Zimbabwe is not going to work, and that has been proven. It failed to work when we, as South Africans, intervened in the formation of that government of national unity after the opposition MDC had won the elections – that was our initial failure,” he said.

The African Transformation Movement (ATM) agreed with Maimane. The party has also been calling for action against the Zimbabwean government.

ATM wrote to Parliament Speaker Thandi Modise requesting that this matter be debated. They criticised the House for being silent about the situation in Zimbabwe.

“The silence of the House on this matter might have dire consequences for South Africa and damning consequences for the people of Zimbabwe who are exposed to this injustice by the Zimbabwean government,” said ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula.

The Zimbabwean government has faced international backlash for its authoritarian rule and its silencing of human rights activists, journalists and members of the opposition MDC, through arrests and abductions.

On Tuesday, during a TV address an unapologetic Mnangagwa condemned the “machinations of destructive, terrorist opposition groupings”.

“Those who promote hate and disharmony will never win. The bad apples that have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems will be flushed out. God shall triumph over evil,” he said.