SOUTH Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mphakama Mbete has urged Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane to stay out of Zimbabwe’s politics, amid indications the Zimbabwe government could turn away Mr. Maimane at the airport should he proceed with this week’s planned visit to Zimbabwe.
This comes as Mr Mmusi Maimane announced Wednesday that he plans to visit Zimbabwe this week to meet with opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa.
There are fears that Maimane “could be deported at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe international airport by the Zimbabwe government the same way he was deported at the Kenneth Kaunda international airport in May 2017” after he meddled in Zambian politics.
“I will pay a working visit to Zimbabwe this week. I will meet with current opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, and former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Tendai Biti, among others,” Mr Maimane said on Monday, without giving a date.
He added: “The purpose of this visit is to seek practical solutions to the ongoing crisis, and garner support across the region for much-needed intervention in Zimbabwe.”
Maimane has been described by the Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting Services, Energy Mutodi as a “reckless politician funded by ex-Rhodesian unhappy with our land reform”.
This was after Maimane had indicated he was reporting Zimbabwe to the International Criminal Court at the Hague and other international bodies for human right violations following the violent protests of mid-January.
Said Mutodi: “We note some reckless statements by DA’s Mmusi Maimane who is funded by ex-Rhodhesians unhappy with our land reform suggesting that Zimbabwe needs an ICC probe to which it is not a signatory.
“Nowhere in the world including SA and the US has anarchy been condoned under the guise of protest.”
In May 2017, Maimane was turned away at Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda airport and had his cellphones and other valuables confiscated before being bundled on the next flight to South Africa.
Heavily armed immigration officers prevented him from entering Zambia where he wanted to “drum up support and show solidarity with Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema” who was being incarcerated for treason.
Hichilema had reportedly refused to give way to Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade, insisting he was the legitimate president and did not recognize Lungu.
A source at the Ministry of Information told ZOOMZimbabwe that “it was not impossible for the Harare government to treat Maimane the Zambian way”, meaning he could be deported as what happened in Zambia.
“Maimane is facing an embarrassing moment if he proceeds with plans to visit Harare, same way he was embarrassed by being deported at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Zambia in 2017 after he dabbled in Zambian politics,” the source said.
She added: “Government is keeping all options on the table. It may, or may not turn Mr Maimane back at the airport.”
The Zimbabwean government is buoyed by a recent visit by an ANC delegation to “show solidarity” with President Mnangagwa as well to asses the situation on he ground following violent protests as well as ruthless crackdown by Zimbabwean security agents.
Magashule told journalists that he had visited Harare at the behest of Ramaphosa to get an assessment of the situation on the ground.
“This is our solidarity visit to Zanu-PF, to Zimbabweans. We undertake this visit because of the present situation we have observed at a distance.
“And as former liberation movements, I think we have agreed that this is the time to consolidate and strengthen our relationship. In fact, before we left, we sat down with his excellency our president Cyril Ramaphosa, and our various committees to understand [our mandate],” Magashule said.
He added: “Zimbabwe is faced with well-calculated, well-planned activities of insurrection, of ungovernability. We want to understand so that when we look as to what is the way forward we have comprehended.”
Speaking to the State daily The Herald on Wednesday, South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mbete expressed surprise that Maimane wants to approach the UN, International Criminal Court (ICC) and parliament over the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.
Mbete said: “We do not agree with what Honourable Maimane has been saying. We are very focused and we are clear about where we want to take the relationship between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“He does not have the authority to interfere with the politics in other country. We are clear about that, as the ruling party, they do not have. We are actually surprised with such articulations.”