Zimbabwe opposition barred from meeting South African envoys

Tuesday August 11 2020


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Harare. Zimbabwe's main opposition coalition on Monday said it had not been allowed to meet with special envoys from South Africa sent in response to a mounting crackdown on dissent.

South Africa appointed two special envoys to go to neighbouring Zimbabwe last week after authorities banned anti-government demonstrations and arrested around 20 protesters for "inciting public violence".

The envoys met President Emmerson Mnangagwa and ruling ZANU-PF party officials in the capital Harare on Monday. 

But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-Alliance) said it had been excluded from the meeting and unable to speak to the envoys during their visit.

"A delegation remained on standby from 10 am (0800 GMT) this morning only to be advised at the end of the day that the special envoys would be returning to South Africa without meeting the MDC-Alliance delegation," coalition spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere said in a statement blaming ZANU-PF.

"It is clear that Mr Mnangagwa is not ready to resolve the national crisis through genuine dialogue."


The banned protests -- scheduled for Mnangagwa's two-year election anniversary on July 31 -- had been called to denounce Zimbabwe's crumbling economy and alleged state corruption.

A prominent journalist and an opposition leader were arrested last month for calling and supporting the protests.

The latest government clampdown sparked outrage on social media with the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter trending worldwide.

But last week Mnangagwa warned that he would "flush out" the "bad apples who have attempted to divide our people" -- raising fears of further reprisal against activists and opposition figures.

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the country's former speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete and ex-minister Sydney Mufamadi "to identify possible ways" of assisting Zimbabwe.

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

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

The MDC-Alliance said Zimbabwe was "in a state of crisis" characterised by "a crackdown on citizens, abductions, arbitrary arrests of government critics and the political persecution of journalists."