The South African government and the African National Congress (ANC) are in discord over the current crisis in Zimbabwe, where citizens have taken to the streets over recent weeks in protest against massive fuel price hikes imposed by the government.
While South Africa has condemned the human rights abuses meted out on Zimbabwean protesters by security forces, the ruling Zanu-PF party has blamed the protests on “regime change agents,” the Johannesburg-based City Press reported.
A high-level ANC delegation — including secretary-general Ace Magashule and Bongani Bongo, a member of the ANC’s subcommittee on international relations — met with Zanu-PF officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in Harare this week.
This, after at least a dozen protesters died and scores were arrested as police fired live ammunition and tear gas during clashes over the rising cost of living and the fuel price increase.
“We condemn violence wherever it takes place,” Bongo told City Press. “But the briefing we got was that the violence was informed by some elements of regime change. The people who were injured were not taken to Zimbabwean hospitals, but to centres designed by people unknown to the government of Zimbabwe or Zanu-PF.”
Bongo said the ANC was now characterizing the violent protests as an element of regime change. “We think that if there are such things happening, government must take control. There are elements that seek to undermine the authority and sovereignty of the government of Zimbabwe.”
This directly contradicts International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who has criticized the Zimbabwean government for its “heavy-handed” approach in cracking down on protesters.
“We have expressed our concerns about the levels of violence and how [the police] deal with any challenges on the streets,” Sisulu said. “During our press briefings, every time we have talked about Zimbabwe, we have mentioned the fact that we are unhappy. It only brings negativity to a country that needs a lot of support. They have acknowledged that they have been heavy-handed.”