HARARE – South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to take urgent steps to stop the on-going crackdown against dissenting voices by Zimbabwe’s security forces.
The party also warned ominously that should Ramaphosa fail to intervene in the matter decisively, the DA would soon call upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
The ICC is an international tribunal that sits in The Hague, in the Netherlands. It has powers to prosecute individuals fingered in crimes related to wanton killings, genocide, crimes against humanity and war transgressions.
The DA’s move comes as local rights groups are reporting widespread abuses that are allegedly being perpetrated by soldiers and police, following last week’s deadly riots which left at least 12 people dead and 78 others needing treatment for gunshot wounds.
DA shadow minister for International Relations, Stevens Mokgalapa, also warned Ramaphosa yesterday to ditch his “quiet diplomacy” and order Mnangagwa’s administration to halt on-going rights breaches by security forces.
“If Ramaphosa fails to intervene and advise Mnangagwa to stop the military clampdown on civilians, the DA will be left with no option but to approach the International Criminal Court (ICC) to consider a preliminary investigation into these violations as outlined in the Rome Statute.
“The ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor is empowered by the Rome Statute to … determine whether there is sufficient evidence of crimes of sufficient gravity falling within the ICC’s jurisdiction, whether there are genuine national proceedings, and whether opening an investigation would serve the interests of justice and of the victims.
“The DA strongly believes that the human rights crisis currently obtaining in Zimbabwe is of sufficient gravity to warrant an ICC investigation because, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, at least 12 people have been killed, 78 shot at and 240 have faced assault, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, ” Mokgalapa said.
“President Ramaphosa and his government seem intent on sitting on their hands over the Zimbabwe crisis in much the same manner as Thabo Mbeki’s failed diplomacy.
“In 2008, people were attacked and murdered with impunity in another State-sanctioned military clampdown targeting innocent civilians after a disputed election,” Mokgalapa added.
Zimbabwe has once again hit global headlines in the wake of the trail of terror left by security forces, following last week’s protests against the recent fuel price hikes.
Human rights groups and medical doctors have told gory stories regarding the abuse of ordinary Zimbabweans, including women and schoolchildren, by soldiers during last week’s mayhem.
The DA also said it was wrong for security forces to use disproportionate force against lawbreakers, where other alternative means of controlling the situation were available.
“The DA will not stand by while Ramaphosa repeats a ‘Quiet Diplomacy 2.0’ strategy that is sure to produce the same results as (former SA president Thabo) Mbeki’s ill-thought foreign policy.
“Mbeki’s silence only served to worsen the human rights climate in Zimbabwe and led to a collapse of the economy, whose consequences are still being felt to this day, with thousands of Zimbabweans flocking to South Africa to seek economic refuge.
“Like the ANC, the Zanu PF government is quite simply the same bus filled with empty promises being driven by a different driver who has no power to steer the party in the right direction.
“The people of Zimbabwe were promised a new dawn when Mugabe was ousted, much like South Africa when Jacob Zuma stepped down. Both have proven to be myths,” Mokgalapa charged.
“The era of comradeship between Ramaphosa’s ANC government and Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF government while human rights are being trampled on with impunity is over.
“President Ramaphosa is faced with an easy choice, either he intervenes to stop civilian abuse by the military in Zimbabwe or his government will be one of the parties that will answer to the ICC on why they failed to act to stop the human rights violations,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government has denied that the security forces are behind the crackdown and instead blamed “deserters and imposters” for the abuses.