Skepticism is mounting over South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent appointment of former South African parliament speaker Baleka Mbete and former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi as special envoys to engage the Zimbabwean government over alleged human rights abuses in the country.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has hogged international limelight in recent weeks over persecution of opposition political and human rights activists including alleged security forces brutality on civilians.
Bowing down to pressure for an urgent intervention, Pretoria yesterday set out the two envoys to establish the situation obtaining in its northern neighbor however, the decision has been met with growing cynicism across various political quarters from Zimbabwe and within South Africa itself.
Mbete widely viewed as a sympathizer of Mnangagwa’s administration is not the perfect candidate for the task at hand, according to former Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane.
“SA’s ambassador to Harare, Mphakama Mbete, is Baleka Mbete’s brother. He has been quiet during the arrests of journalists. Dr. Sidney Mufumadi did not speak to opposition in 2007. Rather than a sham envoy we need a robust envoy with representatives from the EFF, UDM, DA, IFP,” Mmusi Maimane posted on Twitter this morning.
Public doubt of Mbete seem to have been triggered by a file video footage circulating on social media where Mbete speaking on Aljazeera Television soon after the military take-over in Zimbabwe that disposed former President Robert Mugabe and elevated Mnangagwa to the throne suggesting that the former South African speaker of parliament approves of military regimes.
“I thought it (military take-over) was great. That intervention was politically motivated. It happened to be an initiative of military people. Because it was a military then I guess a coup would do but I’m saying there was a crisis busy unfolding in Zimbabwe. I think that intervention helped Zanu Pf,” Mbete said then.
Prominent government critic and also former advisor to the late Morgan Tsvangirai, Alex Magaisa took to the social media describing Mbete as Mnangagwa’s “life-saver” when he was in hiding prior to the events of November 2017.
“Mbete is a good friend of mine. So she came to where I was hiding and she told President Jacob Zuma that I was there,” said Mnangagwa describing his escape before the coup in November 2017. In other words, Mbete is Mnangagwa’s Phone-A-Friend option,” he posted.
Political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya suggested that the appointment of Mbete as an envoy to establish the situation in Zimbabwe was an act to save the ruling Zanu PF party amid intensified global attention of events going on.
“The people are no fools, they have intellectual agency. They are tired of efforts to save ZANU PF and not Zimbabwe and its peaceful citizens,” said Ruhanya.
But with Zanu PF having already castigated the ANC’s decision to somewhat play role of big brother by sanctioning a fellow liberation movement and opposition activists already dismissing the credibility of the envoys, Mbete and Mufamadi’s task has just got more intricate than it already was on the onset.