By Bloomberg, IOL and BusinessDayLive
Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa has dismissed rumours that a coup is being planned after a week of violent protests against massive fuel-price increases.
“The president is aware of whispers of a ‘palace coup’ brewing amidst the current turmoil persisting in the country,” Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba said on Twitter on Monday. “We as an elected administration tend not to acknowledge trivia. It is prudent of the administration to clear the air.”
Mnangagwa is expected to return to Zimbabwe (anytime today) after visiting Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan in an effort to drum up investment for his economically crippled nation.
Demonstrations erupted on January 14 when the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called a three-day strike to protest a 150% hike in the price of diesel and petrol. At least 12 people were killed during the protests.
Mnangagwa, who was accompanied by Charamba, cancelled a scheduled trip to a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, saying it was necessary to “restore calm” in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile lawyers and a media-advocacy group on Monday asked the high court to declare the shutdown of the internet illegal after the government blocked access to most social-media services last week.
The shutdown has caused loss of business and income and threats to life, according to the urgent application filed on Monday by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe unit of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
The legal action is directed at the three mobile networks operating in the country, including Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the national security minister and the head of the intelligence services.
The country’s biggest mobile-phone operator Econet said last week that Facebook, WhatsApp, Youtube and Twitter had been blocked on government instructions. At least 12 people were killed during a police crackdown meant to end nationwide protests against a 150% hike in the price of diesel and gasoline.
A spokesperson at Econet’s Johannesburg office said on January 18 that the company could not respond to criticism in Zimbabwe or on social media.
The first priority is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable, and working again
In a message posted on his Twitter account on Sunday afternoon, Mnangagwa said, “In light of the economic situation I will be returning home after a highly productive week of bilateral trade and investment meetings. We will be ably represented in Davos by Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube. The first priority is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable, and working again.”
Earlier on Sunday, the Democratic Alliance threatened to approach the International Criminal Court (ICC) to consider a preliminary investigation into human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
The DA urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to re-consider his “Quiet Diplomacy 2.0” on Zimbabwe and intervene directly to “stop the ongoing human rights violations by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government”, DA spokesman Stevens Mokgalapa said in a statement.
“If Ramakhosa fails to intervene and advise Mnangagwa to stop the military clampdown on civilians, the DA will be left with no option but to approach the International Criminal Court (ICC) to consider a preliminary investigation into these violations as outlined in the Rome Statute.”
The ICC’s office of the prosecutor was empowered by the Rome Statute to “…determine whether there is sufficient evidence of crimes of sufficient gravity falling within the ICC’s jurisdiction, whether there are genuine national proceedings, and whether opening an investigation would serve the interests of justice and of the victims”.
The DA strongly believed that the current human rights crisis in Zimbabwe was of sufficient gravity to warrant an ICC investigation, because, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, at least 12 people had been killed, 78 shot at, and 240 faced “assault, torture, inhumane, and degrading treatment”.
“President Rampahosa is faced with an easy choice – either he intervenes to stop civilian abuse by the military in Zimbabwe or his government will be one of the parties that will answer to the ICC on why they failed to act to stop the human rights violations,” Mokgalapa said.
Comment on this report: Call/text/whatsapp: (+27) 834767918