Today we are here at the Embassy of Zimbabwe in South Africa to begin the process of ensuring peace and stability is restored in our neighbouring Zimbabwe, and to see her people safe from violence and intimidation. Following weeks of relentless political instability and violence with no end in sight, we are compelled to act on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe and the SADC region.

The situation is Zimbabwe is dire. Widespread civilian suppression, military-led violence, and bloodshed has ensued – with 100’s arrested and detained by government authorities. Assault, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment of citizens continues while President Ramaphosa sits on his hands and refuses to take action.

Today I am joined by Members of the Parliament of Zimbabwe who have fled the country and are in exile here in South Africa. Their stories tell the harrowing truth as to what happens when a government turns on its own people, using military force and violence to suppress protest and opposition.

Their stories are our stories, and as democrats who stand for constitutional democracy, the rule of law, and the protection of basic human rights, we must stand in solidarity with them and make our voices heard. The situation cannot continue any longer.

To date there has been a complete absence of leadership from the South African government in general – and President Ramaphosa in particular. 10 days ago the DA formally approached the President, requesting he advise the nation on what steps the government will take in the immediate future to ensure an end to the violence in Zimbabwe and the full reinstatement of all civil liberties.

Since then, no meaningful action has been taken by Ramaphosa or his government. The era of “quiet diplomacy” continues, as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation has to date simply expressed confidence in “the measures being taken by the Zimbabwean government” which will “resolve the situation”.

In the absence of any meaningful intervention by either the South African government or regional African bodies such as SADC and the AU, I have no choice but to intervene in an effort to help find a peaceful resolution.

As chairperson of the Southern African Partnership for Democratic Change (SAPDC), which represents opposition parties from the SADC region, I have a duty to speak up on behalf of our member parties, and to speak out against any injustice in the region. The disturbing reports of beatings, arrests and other threats to hard-won democratic freedoms in Zimbabwe compels me to act.

That is why I have today delivered a formal letter addressed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, requesting an in-person meeting with him when I travel to Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, next week.

This forms part of a fact-finding mission I will be leading to Zimbabwe in the coming days. It will include meetings with political parties ZANU-PF and MDC, as well as civil society organisations in order to find practical solutions to end the violence in Zimbabwe and bring about peace, stability and the return of the rule of law.

The Mnangagwa government’s mantra is that “Zimbabwe is open for business and dialogue”. We trust the President will live up to this mantra and begin a dialogue with regional actors that we hope will result in positive change in Zimbabwe.

The protection of democratic rights in Zimbabwe is critical to the advancement of democracy throughout the region. But more importantly, the safety and well-being of the people of Zimbabwe matters deeply to all of us, because we are one people here in Southern Africa. They are our brothers and sisters.

In this light, we note this week’s meeting between the ANC and ZANU-PF in Harare. It is clear that this meeting’s only objective was to strengthen the bond between the two liberation movements. The ANC’s modus operandi is to side with ruling political parties in country’s such as Zimbabwe and Venezuela – where citizens are suffering. It’s first and foremost about elitist Big Man Politics.

For us, our fundamental interest is to uphold and protect the principles of democracy in the region. The violence against civilians, the shut-down of the Internet and the detention of activists and opponents are thoroughly undemocratic acts. We cannot stand by and watch as Zimbabwean citizens are subjected to these abuses and killings.

We want to see a free Zimbabwean press, and we want to see your streets free from soldiers and guns. We want to see the return of all the individual rights enshrined in your Constitution.

The DA believes in a human rights-based foreign policy. We will seek to build the pillars of a just society accross the globe – to promote democratic governments and states characterised by accountable institutions, independent judiciaries, free media and vibrant civil societies.

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