S. Africa to send new envoys to crisis-hit Zimbabwe

AFP , Monday 31 Aug 2020

Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address in Cape Town, South Africa. Ramaphosa on Thursday Aug. 27, 2020,Feb. 13, 2020. AP

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday said he would send special envoys to Zimbabwe within "days" in a second attempt to resolve an ongoing crisis in the country's northern neighbour.

Three veteran South African politicians travelled to Zimbabwe in early August after authorities banned anti-government demonstrations and arrested several protesters.

The delegation did not meet opposition parties and was widely criticised for failing to confront President Emmerson Mnangagwa about his administration's mounting crackdown on dissent.

Zimbabwe's government has vehemently denied that a crisis is unfolding within its borders.

"The (ANC) secretary general will be finalising the delegation that will be going to Zimbabwe in days to go and meet with the Zimbabwe governing party," Ramaphosa told reporters during a virtual press conference on Monday.

"When they get there they should get the opportunity of meeting other stakeholders in Zimbabwe," he added.

"Clearly it is important that we get as broad a view of what is happening in Zimbabwe as we possibly can."

Mnangagwa has grown increasingly hostile towards critics since he took over from his despotic predecessor Robert Mugabe, ousted by a coup in 2017.

The southern African country has been crippled by decades of mismanagement, and many Zimbabweans complain that the situation has grown worse under Mnangagwa.

In July he vowed to "flush out" the "bad apples" attempting to "divide our people" -- stoking concern among social activists and opposition figures already targeted by the government.

Mnangagwa's harsh rhetoric and a recent spate of high-profile arrests have sparked outrage on social media, with the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter trending worldwide.

The first South African delegation, sent to Zimbabwe on August 10, met only with Mnangagwa.

No statement was issued after the visit and Ramaphosa -- who is also the current chairman of the African Union -- has faced pressure to take a more decisive stance.

South Africa's newly minted opposition party ActionSA at the weekend called for tougher action against Harare.

"This crisis impacts our country deeply, and it is now time for a new approach," ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba, former mayor of Johannesburg, said Saturday.

"It is time for hard diplomacy. We must adopt the strongest and harshest policies against an oppressive government, and not punish the people of Zimbabwe."

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