South African Police Services officers on Friday fired stun grenades to disperse protesters outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria.
Hundreds of people had gathered outside the embassy premises to protest human rights violations by the Zimbabwean government.
The protests were organised by various organisations among them #NotinmyName. The protests were in solidarity with the #ZimbabweansLivesMatter, which has been trending in the past two weeks after the arrest of a prominent journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono and an opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume.
The duo was arrested over a week ago and has repeatedly been denied bail. They were on Friday transferred to Zimbabwe’s Chikurubi Maximum Prison from Harare Remand Prison.
Zimbabwe has seen an escalation of human rights violations in the recent months as the Emmerson Mnangagwa led government tries to quell any dissenting voices on the back of a crippling economic and political crisis.
These have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, which the government is seemingly failing to combat with its crippled health system.
That too has been exacerbated by corruption in government with Mnangagwa recently firing his health minister Obadiah Moyo after he was named in a corruption scandal which ironically also involved the president’s family.
Chin’ono has been vocal in exposing the corruption and was also one of the proponents of the now foiled July 31 protests. The government barred the protests by turning away people from Harare’s central business district and bringing business to a standstill.
And on Friday, Zimbabweans based in the Gauteng province gathered at the country’s embassy but were quickly dispersed by the police which said they did not have e permit.
However, the organisers insisted that they were granted permission by the City of Tshwane to protest. This resulted in a scuffle between the picketers and the police.
“They have given us the permission to address you, now they are changing and saying were not permitted,” said Themba Masango, who is the secretary general of #NotinmyName.
Tempers flared as police started firing rubber bullets and throwing stun grenades to disperse the crowds who were chanting slogans.
Protesters demanded that ambassador David Hamadziripi be ejected from South Africa until his government resolves the political situation.
“As the ordinary citizens of this country, as the civic society of this country, as the South African Police Services, as the South African government, we must stand up and speak against what is happening in Zimbabwe” #NotinmyName president Siyabulela Jentile told the protesters.
He called the South African government to immediately act in resolving the Zimbabwean situation as its quiet diplomacy was hurting the country’s citizens.
Different political parties in South Africa have been calling for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene. United Democratic Movement (UDM) secretary general Bantu Holomisa said: “The UDM calls for tolerance among Africans, especially in these challenging times where we are all facing the Coronavirus pandemic”.
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa recently appointed Sidney Mufamadi and Baleka Mbethe as his special envoys to Zimbabwe. They are meant to engage the Zimbabwean government and relevant stakeholders to identify possible ways in which the situation can be resolved.
Since his election last year, Mnangagwa has faced stiff resistance from opposition MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa which claimed the polls were rigged.
MDC Alliance has also refused to be part of a dialogue process championed by Mnagagwa.
This is not the first time that South Africa has deployed envoys to Zimbabwe as former president Thabo Mbeki has in the past played mediator between the late Robert Mugabe and his arch opponent, who is also now late, Morgan Tsvangirai.
While the MDC Alliance has so far welcomed Mufumadi and Mbethe, it remains to be seen what kind of deal they can broker between the Zimbabwean politicians.