By Tinashe Kairiza and Andrew Kunambura
Fresh details have emerged from last week’s stormy meeting between Zanu PF and South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), revealing that the two former liberation movements maintained diametrically opposed standpoints on how to address Zimbabwe’s multifaceted political and economic problems.
Though both parties emerged from the meeting portraying it as having been cordial, sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that the discussions failed to yield a “meeting of minds”, with the two parties’ senior officials maintaining their entrenched positions.
The venue would at times turn into a theatre of dramatic confrontations, as discussions degenerated into verbal vitriol when debating thorny topics.
During the stormy meeting held at the Zanu PF headquarters, the high-powered ANC delegation, led by its secretary-general Ace Magashule, tabled five key talking points, which defined the interaction.
South Africa’s ruling party broadly expressed concern over the deteriorating political and economic crises gripping Zimbabwe.
Other members of the ANC delegation included the party’s chairperson and Energy and Mineral Resources minister Gwede Mantashe, Defence minister and ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, NEC and national working committee member Tony Yengeni, Social Development minister and chairperson of the NEC on international relations Lindiwe Zulu, as well as the chairperson of the NEC on economic transformation Enoch Godongwana.
The ANC delegation spoke first, with Magashule leading the way in expressing ANC’s exasperation over the worsening economic situation in Zimbabwe and escalating reports of human rights abuses.
Sources said he expressed concern and anxiety over the worsening political and economic crisis besetting Zimbabwe, characterised by runaway inflation, hovering just below 800 per cent, escalation of human rights abuses, an influx of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants into South Africa and the heavy-handed approach by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration towards handling dissent.
However, sources told this newspaper that Zanu PF, which was represented by secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri, spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa and other senior officials, rebuffed the ANC’s standpoint that Zimbabwe was engulfed by a debilitating crisis, vehemently insisting that such claims were being fuelled by the country’s detractors.
The Zanu delegation, led by Mpofu, said the economic challenges facing Zimbabwe, which were also common to South Africa, were worsened by sanctions imposed by the US, while it said the reported abductions of opposition activists were a creation of Zanu PF’s enemies. The Zanu PF team reportedly presented what it said was irrefutable evidence that the abductions were stage-managed.
After Zanu PF’s submissions, the ANC was not swayed from its position, but rather advanced the argument that if the myriad of challenges bedevilling its neighbour were not addressed, they could plunge South Africa into turmoil, while also destabilising the whole region.
A source privy to the discussions said: “The ANC delegation was quite systematic and unequivocal in its submissions and concerns that Zimbabwe is crippled by a multi-dimensional crisis, which has a domino effect and impact on South Africa.
“If anything, the ANC delegation led by its firebrand secretary-general (Magashule) insisted that the myriad of problems stalking Zimbabwe amounted to a chronic crisis, and if they were not urgently addressed they would affect South Africa’s stability and growth prospects,” the source said.
Pursuant to that, the sources added, Zulu, known for her hardline views on Harare, insisted that the Zimbabwean crisis was evident; judging by the influx of immigrants from Zimbabwe to South Africa and the pinch Pretoria was already feeling in addressing social ills such as crime. She also said if a lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis was not urgently found, South Africa, which is already constrained, would find it “extremely difficult” to uplift the livelihoods of its citizens through the provision of jobs, housing, education, among other socio-economic services.
In its response, Zanu PF, through Chinamasa, who, after the meeting declared that Zimbabwe was a sovereign state and not South Africa’s “province”, took the meeting on a historical tour, highlighting that the exodus of Zimbabweans to South Africa was not new, as it dated back to the Wenela era of the 1940s, when hordes of people trekked to the neighbouring country to work in mines.
The Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA), commonly known as Wenela, was established by a grouping of gold mines in South Africa, which was recruiting its labour force within the region. Eventually, it comprised a large organisation with its own depots, buses and aeroplanes spread across the whole of southern Africa.
A source close to the meeting said: “Chinamasa was not deterred, much to the bemusement of the South African delegation, which thought that his Wenela example was naïve and out of context. But Chinamasa insisted that the issue of immigrants was historical, and Zimbabwe should not be ostracised because of its people living in South Africa. He basically said the influx of Zimbabwean immigrants did not typify a crisis at home.”
After an exhaustive and comprehensive exchange on the Zimbabwean crisis and its attendant impact on South Africa, sources said, Magashule, supported by Zulu, noted that the ANC was also gravely worried by utterances from high-ranking Zanu PF officials who were advancing the narrative that the liberation movement, which uprooted apartheid, “was being deployed by the West to push a regime change agenda in Zimbabwe”.
Magashule and Zulu, supported by their fellow party members, sources said, reminded their Zanu PF counterparts that the ANC was the oldest liberation movement and “could not be corrupted to sell out Africa’s struggle”.
“Discussions then evolved to a discussion around the ANC’s concern that it was being used by Zimbabwe’s detractors to vilify Zanu PF in the hope of unseating Mnangagwa’s government,” another source told the Independent this week.
“At that point, the ANC, through Zulu, took umbrage at such accusations and reminded the meeting that the revolutionary party, founded in 1912, was a tried and tested organisation that could not be manipulated by neo-imperialists. Zulu went further and highlighted that the ANC’s involvement in Zimbabwe was out of genuine concern to extricate its neighbour from an acute crisis.”
As the candid discussions reached boiling point, Zanu PF, through Mpofu, is said to have deviated to what he said was the ANC’s “complicity in its failure to deal with opposition parties in South Africa”, such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema and the Democratic Alliance (DA), who have piled pressure on Mnangagwa’s administration to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe, among other glaring symptoms of the country’s deep-seated crisis.
“At that point Mpofu said Zanu PF was also worried that the ANC was folding its hands while Zanu PF was being attacked by the EFF and DA instead of expressing solidarity with it.
“If anything, Mpofu was basically suggesting that the ANC, using its power as South Africa’s ruling party, should take punitive action against the EFF, DA and other South African civil organisations that were castigating Zanu PF.”
However, the ANC delegation, at this point through submissions from Yengeni is also said to have reminded the Zanu PF representatives that South Africa was “a democratic state which provided constitutional rights” to opposition parties to express their political viewpoints.
“In short, the ANC delegation categorically said it had no right and power to stop the growing criticism against Zanu PF from within South Africa, including from the country’s opposition parties,” the source said.
But, the Zanu PF delegation was not impressed, prompting it to further suggest that the ANC should push for the extradition of G40 stalwarts such as Saviour Kasukuwere, Walter Mzembi and Patrick Zhuwao who fled to the neighbouring country when former president Robert Mugabe was toppled from power through a military coup in November 2017.
On Wednesday, while addressing a politburo meeting, Mnangagwa threatened to terminate Zimbabwe’s extradition agreement with South Africa as he pursues efforts to bring the G40 members to justice on a series of corruption charges.
“Magashule emphasised that the G40 members living in South Africa had satisfied all legal requirements to stay in South Africa, and as such, there could not be any legal justification for Pretoria to extradite them.
“He went further and emphasised that the ANC, acting on its discretion, had a right to interact with the former Zanu PF members. He said the ANC’s doors remained open to all those who wished to interact with the party,” sources told this newspaper this week. – The Zimbabwe Independent.