South African opposition leader Julius Malema on Sunday urged Zimbabwean youths to take decisive steps to end President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s increasingly autocratic rule, warning that social media activism alone would not bring about the desired change.
Zimbabwe is going through its worst economic crisis in over a decade, with inflation of over 700 percent. Many blame Mnangagwa, the 77-year-old successor of Robert Mugabe, for the crisis which has seen doctors and nurses going on an indefinite strike in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Malema spoke at a Women’s Day event close to the grave of anti-apartheid icon Winnie Mandela, charging that Zimbabwean women wake up everyday with a threat of arrest, abduction or rape by Mnangagwa’s shock troops.
Zimbabweans must now engage in the “real revolution”, he said, while calling on South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to turn the screws on Mnangagwa.
We are here at Mama’s grave to talk about the rights of women, yet just next door in Zimbabwe the rights of the people are being violated, worse the rights of women,” Malema said.
“They abduct children from the streets, particularly girl children, rape them in the bush. Police and soldiers have become a law onto themselves. Mnangagwa has become a pig and is eating his own children in Zimbabwe.”
Malema said when Mnangagwa swept to power on the back of a military coup in November 2017, “a lot of us had thought something positive will happen” but “things have become extremely worse.”
“Zimbabweans are not cowards. Zimbabweans have fought before. Why is the youth of Zimbabwe fighting through (social media) hashtags? Why is the youth of Zimbabwe fighting from South Africa and London? Why are they not occupying the borders of Zimbabwe there in Musina and we will support them and say no car goes into Zimbabwe and no car comes out of Zimbabwe until the rights of our people are restored? Why is the youth of Zimbabwe not rising in Zimbabwe and face death because they are already dead?”
Malema said impunity under Mnangagwa had allowed the abuse of Zimbabweans by security services to go unpunished. In January 2019, following riots over fuel price increases, rights groups documented over a dozen rapes by soldiers who were going door-to-door smoking out Mnangagwa critics.
“To live with a mother who can be raped at any time by the state with no consequences; to live with a sister who can be raped at any time with no consequences? Our own comrades should stop the hashtag revolution and engage in the real revolution,” Malema said.
Zimbabweans supported South Africa during the struggle against apartheid, the EFF leader said, and now it was time for South Africa to return the favour. He placed specific pressure on Ramaphosa – the current African Union chairman – to intervene and rein in Mnangagwa.
“The most practical thing for South Africa to do, if Ramaphosa respects human rights as he claims to have drafted this constitution that they say is the best constitution in the world, he must withdraw the South African embassy from Zimbabwe and chase away the Zimbabwean embassy from South Africa until human rights are restored,” Malema said.
Ramaphosa last week announced he was sending two envoys to Zimbabwe after the military and police were used to crush planned anti-government protests on July 31. Rights groups say dozens of people including opposition politicians and journalists were arrested, abducted or tortured while others were forced to flee their homes.
South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance has however raised questions about the composition of the delegation made up of the former Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete and one-time security minister Sydney Mufamadi.
The DA said the pair should be withdrawn “because of their political bias towards the Zanu PF-led regime in Zimbabwe.”
“Failure to withdraw these two individuals will render the mission a farce and an attempt by President Ramaphosa to cover up the human rights abuses that Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been committing against defenceless Zimbabweans,” the DA said in a statement.
While attending Zanu PF’s extraordinary congress in December 2017, Mbete, who was representing the ANC, heaped praise on Zanu PF for the military coup that removed Mugabe, adding that: “You achieved a good transition peacefully. I find no bitterness or hatred about your predecessor Mugabe. That is political maturity. As ANC we are here to say we are proud to be associated with Zanu PF and we wish you good luck comrades.”
Mufamadi refused to meet with opposition leaders in Zimbabwe in 2007 when he was sent by then-president Thabo Mbeki in response to the country’s escalating political crisis, choosing instead to focus his attention on then-president Mugabe.
Both Mbeki and Mufamadi insisted that the opposition leaders recognise Mugabe as the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe before political talks could begin.