ON behalf of the people of Zimbabwe who have expressed themselves loudly on social media, and have expressed themselves on issues they want to be addressed legally, we are grateful that you have found it necessary to appoint envoys to the Zimbabwe crisis.
We hope they will do a thorough and genuine deliberative engagement with the people and fully understand what the people want, before engaging in what might turn out to be another failed “elite” negotiation or whitewashing of issues.
We say so because we have noted your appointment of Sydney Mafumadi, who was previously an envoy with the then president Thabo Mbeki in 2007. Their mission left the situation unresolved, leading to the current mission and the issues remain the same:
• Economic mismanagement, leading to corruption and poverty
• Refusal to reform electoral practices, leading to rigged results
• Infringement of media freedoms
• Persecution of opposition activists and use of fear as an instrument of power arbitrage
• Use of violence and impunity to suppress dissent by citizens.
We also noted that you referred to assisting Zimbabwe in the unfolding crisis. Yet, Zanu-PF has already issued a belligerent statement, denying there is a crisis and almost personally attacking your excellency.
There is also an attempt by Zanu-PF to cast the crisis as an internal party matter. Emmerson Mnangagwa claims friendship to Baleka Mbete and Mafumadi has been accused of being impartial, based on past experience, with fears that the envoys may fail to take a different approach to Mbeki.
Mbeki focused on power-sharing between the two main political parties, but we hope your envoys will ask the people what they want, and the people are more than the political parties.
In the alternative, we request that the International Relations Committee of the South African parliament be given the mandate to engage with the Zimbabwean crisis on your behalf.
As an inter-party committee, we trust it would be more impartial and achieve a more genuine deliberative engagement process.
We, therefore urge the envoys to depoliticise the dialogue and concentrate on the broad wishes of the citizens. These wishes of the people have nothing to do with internal Zanu-PF issues, except that Zanu-PF supporters are also citizens who may also want a better Zimbabwe.
The wishes of the people are coming out there in their hashtags on social media and in their messages as they call for legally provided-for protests. They are saying: address corruption, allow free expression, stop the economic mismanagement and corruption, pay citizens in the same currency and live within the government’s means, release the detained journalists and activists and stop the abductions.
Remove the threat on activists who have been forced to go underground because police say they want to interview them in connection with the planned demonstrations, yet it is their constitutional right to demonstrate.
But police and soldiers launched a crackdown before, during and after the planned nationwide protests on July 31 which were meant to highlight the above issues.
Indeed we have called for more action, including a week-long shutdown from the 10th to the 15th of August with more to follow if these issues are not addressed, because it is our constitutional right to do so.
The list of detained, abducted and spuriously charged activists is long. We would hope that they are freed before you even engage with Mnangagwa, so that they may speak for themselves and for the people they represent in the consultations.
We want the consultations to start with the people so that your envoys may find out for themselves whether the people are “detractors trying to create a non-existent crisis” as Mnangagwa’s spokesman was quoted saying.
We want to point out once again that this process needs to be depoliticised and to be inclusive to capture the aspirations of ordinary citizens.
Much has been said about the deafening silence from South Africa and Sadc on Zimbabwe. The people will not be satisfied without a transparent and sustainable way to eradicate violence, impunity, and corruption.
As the outcry that you have responded to, Sir, arose from ordinary Zimbabweans on social media and demonstrating in the streets and being arrested and tortured, so must this engagement not be mired in quiet diplomacy involving the ‘elites’ and ignoring those citizens.