Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Monday demanded the closure of the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa until President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime “restores human rights”.
The EFF, South Africa’s third largest political party, warned that it could prevent Zimbabwean government officials from undertaking any official business in South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised economy.
“We call for the removal of the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa until they restore human rights in that country,” Malema wrote on Twitter.
“Failure to do so, we will prevent any official from the Zimbabwean government from participating in any gathering in SA until they respect ordinary Zimbabweans.”
Malema’s intervention came after a global movement under the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter which swept social media on Monday, with celebrities joining Zimbabweans in demanding respect for human rights.
The campaign follows a military-led crackdown on civil liberties by Mnangagwa over the last two weeks, including abductions, torture and arrests of opposition politicians and journalists as the paranoid regime panicked over protests called for July 31.
Scores of opposition leaders and trade unionists are in hiding.
Mnangagwa’s opponents say his government is resorting to the authoritarian streak of the Robert Mugabe era of banning protests and abducting and arresting critics.
Popular anger has risen over an economic crisis marked by inflation running above 700 percent which has eroded salaries, shortages of foreign currency and public hospitals crippled by strikes and a lack of medicine.
Prominent South Africans including former Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, celebrities AKA, Casper Nyovest, Master KG, Pearl Thusi and DJ Fresh were among those who used the #ZimbabweLivesMatter hashtag.
Zimbabwe-born American star Tinashe, rugby legend Tendai Mtawarira, singer Seh Calaz, ZiFM star MisRed and the former Zimbabwe cricket captain Brendan Taylor were among a host of Zimbabwean celebrities who joined the campaign, with nearly 500,000 tweets by 8PM which made it a trending hashtag in many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
South African TV star Pearl Thusi spoke directly to South African President and current African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa, writing on Twitter: “Please be on time to assist the Zimbabwean people, Sir. Give us a sign. Something bigger than a speech, Sir.”
Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera weighed in late Monday night risking a diplomatic spat with Harare after he added a #FreeZimbabwe hashtag in a solidarity tweet.
“l would like to express my deep concern to the people of Zimbabwe, you deserve to be listened to. #ZimbabweanLivesMatter #FreeZimbabwe #Zimbabwe,” Chakwera tweeted.