RELATIONS between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa continue to deteriorate amid growing anger in the neighbouring country over the immigration crisis at a time the African National Congress, which is facing elections in 2024, wants the matter to be resolved politically.
Tensions escalated last week when the head of Health in South Africa’s Limpopo province, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, chastised a Zimbabwean patient at Bela Bela Hospital.
She blasted Mnangagwa for causing an immigration crisis in her country through bad governance. As if to further prove Ramathuba was articulating official government policy against immigrant patients, Health minister Joe Phaahla said the influx of foreigners, especially from Zimbabwe, was burdening the country’s health delivery system.
He said the immigrants were putting a strain on South Africa’s health system which is already reeling from low staffing and inadequate budgetary allocations. Zimbabwe, through its ambassador in Pretoria, David Hamadziripi, responded with a press statement, revealing he had contacted the government of South Africa through its department of International Relations and Cooperation over Ramathuba’s outburst.
“The Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Pretoria watched with shock and disbelief the video (images) in which the MEC of health spoke to a Zimbabwean national who happened to be a patient in a hospital in the province.
“The Embassy has been in contact with the government of South Africa through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to who it has conveyed the concerns of the government of Zimbabwe on the comments made by the MEC,” read the statement dated 26 August 26 2022.
However, three days later on 29 August, President Ramaphosa defended Ramathuba while speaking in Parliament in a development that further exposed the fraught relations between him and Mnangagwa. Ramaphosa said South Africa is a sovereign country with a right to decide what is good for its citizens.
“Like any sovereign nation, we have the right to implement policies and measures that guarantee the integrity of our borders, protect the rights of South Africans and provide that all who reside in our borders have a legal right to be here. We need to work together to ensure that all the country’s laws are enforced by the relevant authorities firmly and consistently,” Ramaphosa said.
“In the last few months, there have been engagements at ministerial and official level with counterparts from Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe on migration issues. I think now as heads of state, we can have a meeting on the migration crisis in the region.”
In another video which went viral this week, Ramathuba is recorded again tearing into Mnangagwa, saying he is “out of order” over the immigration crisis and that she will bill him for Zimbabwean citizens getting treatment in South Africa.
The latest evidence of the worsening frosty relations between Ramaphosa and Mnangagwa continued to be laid bare on Thursday in a Twitter Spaces discussion hosted by journalist Hopewell Chin’ono featuring Ramathuba who revealed that in June this year, the ANC had in fact resolved to take a hardline stance against Zimbabwean immigrants.
She revealed that the ANC wanted a political solution to the crisis. Mnangagwa three days ago could have met with Ramaphosa in Beitbridge where he opened the new-look border post but the South African leader sent junior officials to attend the occasion.
As earlier reported by The NewsHawks, relations between Mnangagwa and Ramaphosa nose-dived in 2020 after the Zimbabwean government frustrated two South African delegations that had visited to help solve the country’s multi-layered political and economic crisis.
A year later, Ramaphosa was to assume the Sadc chairperson of the Politics, Defence and Security troika, but Mnangagwa still ignored his overtures to help resolve the Zimbabwean crisis.
The first delegation dispatched by Ramaphosa in 2020 comprised of former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete, and former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi. Their mission was to engage the government of Zimbabwe and relevant stakeholders to identify possible ways in which South Africa could assist Harare.
Mufamadi is the former minister of Provincial and Local Government (1999 to 2008). Mbete is former Deputy President of South Africa, former Speaker of the National Assembly and former chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC).
The delegation left Zimbabwe frustrated after it was barred from meeting other stakeholders like the then opposition MDC-Aliance led by Nelson Chamisa.
Ramaphosa’s second delegation was led by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and it comprised other senior party officials in the form of party chairperson and minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe, Defence minister and ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, NEC and National Working Committee member Tony Yengeni, Social Development minister and chairperson of the NEC on international relations Lindiwe Zulu and chairperson of the NEC on economic transformation Enoch Godongwana.
The delegation, which had an eight-hour meeting with Zanu PF leaders, left the country frustrated after it was told that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe at a time South Africa really wanted to assist its neighbour find political and economic solutions to its problems.
The current frosty relations between Mnangagwa and Ramaphosa have now been compounded by the ANC’s bid to win the 2024 elections after losing in last year’s municipal polls to new political parties which are riding on radical politics anchored on taking hardline stances against foreigners, especially Zimbabweans who are accused by poor South Africans of engaging in crime and grabbing their jobs.
The ANC has over the years been treating Zimbabwean immigrants with dignity partly due to the party’s respect for the late president Robert Mugabe whom the South African government revered as a statesman. However, the party paid the price for this soft stance with a poor performance in the 2021 elections in which it lost its majority in four metropolitan municipalities — Tshwane, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and City of Ekurhuleni (East Rand).
Of the eight metros in South Africa, the ANC now only controls Mangaung and Buffalo City with outright majorities, while five of the country’s metros are hung. On the other hand, emerging parties with hardline stances against foreign nationals made inroads into most of the ANC’s strongholds.
Having amassed 49% of the votes in 2016, the ANC in the 2021 municipal polls regressed to 38.19%. Most of its support was taken by new kid on the block ActionSA, which managed to win a respectable 15 seats in the metro.
While the ANC retained its majority in Mangaung, it declined from the 51 seats it got in 2016 to 50. In the same metro, a new party, Patriotic Alliance (PA), gained some seats while the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) gained some ground in the ANC stronghold as it received three more seats than it had in 2016.
In Buffalo City, the ANC again lost a seat, dropping from 61 to 60, while the DA gained four seats, growing from 20 to 24. The EFF also made some gains, growing from eight to 13 seats.
In Buffalo City, the ANC again lost a seat, dropping from 61 to 60, while the DA gained four seats, growing from 20 to 24.
The EFF also made some gains, growing from eight to 13 seats. The ANC has 91 seats with 33.60%, a decline of 121 seats in 2016. The DA has 71 with 26.14% of the votes.
The party has lost 33 seats from 2016 when it held 104 at 38.41%. The biggest winner in Johannesburg was ActionSA after the party secured 44 seats while still a newcomer in South African politics.
The ANC managed 91 seats with 33.60%, which was a decline from the 2016 showing where it had 121. In Buffalo City, the ANC again lost a seat, dropping from 61 to 60, while the DA gained four seats, growing from 20 to 24.
The ANC again suffered a major blow in eThekwini metro where it lost its majority stranglehold on seats.