Human Rights Watch (HRW) has chastised the South African government’s silence on what they describe as a brutal crackdown on people protesting the economic collapse and widespread poverty in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
‘‘South Africa has long failed to call out the Zimbabwean government for its abuses against opposition members and ordinary citizens,’‘ Dewa Mavhinga, a Senior Researcher of HRW Africa Division said in an article, ‘Dispatches: A Betrayal of Mandela’s Legacy’.
Beyond the silence of the Jacob Zuma led-government which HRW maintains was in discord with the values that South Africa’s first black leader, Nelson Mandela; stood for, the group expressed shock at comments by the ruling Africa National Congress (ANC) general secretary accusing protesters in Zimbabwe as being “sponsored elements seeking regime change.”
South Africa has long failed to call out the Zimbabwean government for its abuses against opposition members and ordinary citizens.
‘‘The silence is particularly disturbing given the importance of peaceful protest in ending apartheid in South Africa.
Then-President Nelson Mandela declared in 1994 that “human rights will be the light that guides our foreign policy.” But under President Jacob Zuma, South Africa has had an inconsistent approach to human rights abuses on the continent,’‘ he emphasized.
Zimbabwe has in the last weeks been in the news for reasons such as the inability to pay civil servants salaries on time, a collapsing economy in the face of cash shortage and a protest last week which led to a shut down in the capital Harare and other places.
The government has stated that the current challenges even though are temporal, were as a result of economic sanctions that had been imposed on them. A police crackdown ensued when commercial transport operators also clashed with the police in anti-corruption protests.
Whiles admitting that Zuma could not be another Mandela, Dewa maintained that ‘‘South Africa should steer a clear and consistent foreign policy course guided by its constitutional values of respect for human rights, equality and dignity for all.
‘‘A more consistent, human rights-centered approach to international relations would help improve South Africa’s regional and international standing. This would be in line with the country’s rights-focused constitution and a fitting tribute to Nelson Mandela,’‘ he concluded.