Pandemonium broke out at the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria during an anti-corruption and human rights abuse protest, organised by #NOT IN MY NAME S.A. The protest was in response to arbitrary arrests of opposition MDC Alliance leaders and journalists in the country in the past week. Zimbabweans living in South Africa, together with organisations like Zimbabwean Lives Matter, the NotInMyName Movement and Zimbabwean African Peoples Union gathered to protest against the perceived inaction of South Africa in the face of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Protesters have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene as African Union Chair, instead of delegating other government officials.
A Zimbabwean in the diaspora, who gave his name as Jabulani and didn’t want to give his surname, says the last time he fought for human rights was against Apartheid. “You would think that after 40 years, Zimbabweans being as educated as they are, will be much better than South Africa in terms of human development and quality of life. But here we are working as gardeners, security guards and car guards with our university degrees. It’s quite something, we don’t know what could close the eyes and minds of our leaders to a point where they don’t see it as a serious issue.” Police on the scene claimed the protesters didn’t have the necessary permission to protest in front of the embassy. The protesters, however, insisted on being heard… “We want to address the issue here and right now, If they want to kill us they can kill us, You were given an opportunity to speak, we also want to speak.” The Secretary General of the NotInMyName Movement, Themba Masango, insisted they had permission, but the parties could not come to an agreement and the police tried to disperse the group. The small group moved from the embassy to nearby streets and later dispersed. A Zimbabwean woman, who wanted to stay anonymous, says they feel as though they are being persecuted here, just like in Zimbabwe. “The same persecution that we face at home is what we are facing here. You can see that people in Zim, they don’t have the freedom. When they go to the streets to express their views the police and soldiers come. We are experiencing the same thing here. We hadn’t said anything because we had speakers to represent all sectors. And the very same police that are suppressing others at home are suppressing us. Our voices are still suppressed. Our rights are still not being recognized.”
The youth leader of the Zimbabwean African People’s Union, Lloyd Ndiweni, says South Africa has been too quiet for too long regarding the human rights abuse in Zimbabwe. “They want to comment about George Floyd who lives oceans away. Why are they quiet about our own people that are being murdered every day in Zimbabwe? The African Union and Southern African Development Community need to become proper organisations and not be a gentlemen’s club. They must tell the truth as it is. No sweeping the issues under the rug. We want the government dissolved. We want transitional authority running Zimbabwe until elections are run, proper elections.” The Zimbabwean Embassy however did not respond to requests for comment. Meanwhile, this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that former Government Minister, Sydney Mufamadi, and former National Assembly Speaker, Baleka Mbete, have been appointed as special envoys to Zimbabwe to identify ways South Africa can assist that country overcome its problems.