Frank talk is needed in addressing Zimbabwe crisis

Zimbabwe is once again dominating news headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Zimbabwe is once again dominating news headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Image: 123RF / Natanael Alfredo Nemanita Ginting

Zimbabwe is once again dominating news headlines for all the wrong reasons. A country once dubbed the breadbasket of Africa has been systematically reduced to a basket case, an epitome of bad governance and a seething nest of human rights violations.

As has been witnessed before, Zimbabwean problems inevitably become a regional problem. We applaud President Cyril Ramaphosa for dispatching envoys to Zimbabwe to seek possible solutions to the burgeoning political turmoil. While there are disturbing media reports that the envoys snubbed other  stakeholders, we hope the visit  is a good start for further engagements.  

Whatever intervention South Africa and the region may decide to take, it must start by admitting that there is a problem in Zimbabwe. Earlier in the week ANC NEC member and chair of international relations Lindiwe Zulu said: “In the ANC's view, yes, there is a political crisis in Zimbabwe, and we have to be frank and honest about it.” 

As it turns out Zulu was correct. The shameful elections that followed failed to solve the Zimbabwean crisis

Coming from the ANC, a sister liberation movement of Zanu-PF, such a public pronouncement makes a lot of difference. Hiding away from the issues will only exacerbate problems as the regime in Zimbabwe may feel emboldened by the view that they have at least tacit support from other liberation movements. The region needs more people as frank as Zulu. 

Sadly, there is a tendency in Zimbabwe for those in leadership to either bury their heads in the sand or bluster at anyone who dares question their misrule. In her capacity as special adviser to former president Jacob Zuma on international relations, Zulu recommended delaying the 2013 elections as she felt Zimbabwe had not followed the roadmap towards a free and fair election closely enough.

In response, then president  Robert Mugabe labelled Zulu a “stupid idiotic woman” and a “little streetwalker”.  As it turns out Zulu was correct. The shameful elections that followed failed to solve the Zimbabwean crisis. The current leadership seems to have taken a leaf from Mugabe's book of tricks, judging by their response last week to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule's pronouncement that the ruling party was concerned with developments in that country.

South Africa's involvement in Zimbabwean matters is justified. As the situation worsens in Zimbabwe, thousands more people cross illegally into South Africa. In this Covid-19 era, this is likely to compromise South Africa's  fight against the pandemic. It is time liberation movements such as the ANC chose to stand with the people of Zimbabwe and speak truth to power. The time for quiet diplomacy is over.



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