South Africa’s government said it had noted with concern reports of human-rights violations in Zimbabwe, where an economic meltdown has triggered widespread discontent.
Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s international relations minister, discussed the matter with Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo by phone on Tuesday, Pandor’s department said on Twitter on Thursday. South Africa is intent on maintaining peace and stability in the region and is willing to assist its neighbour address its challenges, the department said.
Zimbabwe is facing shortages of fuel and food, a 737% inflation rate and a collapse in the value of the local currency that has spurred demands by teachers, bankers and health-care workers to be paid in US dollars.
Human rights groups allege the government has used measures that were ostensibly imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus to quash political dissent and prevent street protests. At least 60 people, including novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga, were arrested across the country last week, according to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a national address on Monday that there were “dark forces” within and outside the country undermining the economic recovery.
While the US, UK and other Western nations have been stinging in their criticism of Zimbabwe, South Africa’s government has traditionally refrained from criticising its neighbour, a long-standing political ally, or involving itself in its internal politics.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress also signalled a departure from its usual hands-off approach, with its Secretary-General Ace Magashule announcing that the party will hold a special session to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe.
“We see what is happening in Zimbabwe,” Magashule told the Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA in an interview on Thursday. “The president is interacting with the president of Zimbabwe, worried about what is taking place there and it will have a spillover to South Africa.”
Zimbabwean authorities have downplayed the recent upheaval.
“To set the record straight, there is no crisis or implosion in Zimbabwe, neither has there been any abduction or war on citizens,” Nick Mangwana, the government spokesman, said in an emailed statement on Thursday.
1/4 The Government of the Republic of South Africa has noted with concern the reports related to human rights violations in the Republic of #Zimbabwe.
— DIRCO South Africa (@DIRCO_ZA) August 6, 2020
© 2020 Bloomberg