SA Foreign Minister Ambushed in London

London – 26 October 2006


South African Foreign Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, was ambushed by 10 black Zimbabwean human rights activists in London last tonight (Wednesday 25 October 2006).

Her lecture at the London School of Economics was repeatedly interrupted with accusations of: “ANC betrays black Zimbabwe .”

The protesters were from the Free Zim Youth (FZY) movement, which is committed to “anti-apartheid-style direct action protests against Mugabe’s tyranny and against the ANC’s refusal to support the struggle for democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe .”

About 10 minutes into her lecture on the future of the United Nations, Dr Zuma spoke of the importance of international solidarity. She praised the late ANC leader Oliver Tambo, stating that he was an “ardent internationalist” and a person who believed in “true solidarity.”

This was too much for young back Zimbabweans in the audience.

“We were sickened to hear Dr Zuma talk about international solidarity when her government is refusing to show solidarity with the persecuted people of Zimbabwe ,” said Alois Mbawara, aged 25, who was one of the FZY protesters.

Mr Mbawara stood up in the balcony and shouted at Dr Zuma:

“Why are you doing nothing to help Zimbabwe ? The ANC called for solidarity against apartheid. But the ANC government is showing no solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe ,” he said.

When asked by the chair of the meeting to keep quite, Mr Mbawara replied:

“We can’t keep quite while Zimbabwe is suffering.”

When stewards dragged Mr Mbawara out of the auditorium, the veteran anti-apartheid and human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, walked onto the stage and unfurled a placard behind Dr Zuma. It read: “Mbeki’s shame. ANC betrays black Zimbabwe .”

As security officials tried to wrestle Mr Tatchell off the stage, he accused Dr Zuma and the ANC government of “betraying Oliver Tambo’s commitment to international solidarity with oppressed people.”

“The ANC sits on its hands and looks the other way while Zimbabwe burns,” he told Dr Zuma.

“Mugabe has murdered more black Africans than the apartheid regime. In Matabeleland in the 1980s alone, he massacred 20,000 civilians. That is the equivalent of a Sharpeville massacre every day for nine months. Yet South Africa does noting effective to stop the killing. President Mbeki’s quite diplomacy is a failure. Mugabe’s abuses have increased, not diminished,” said Mr Tatchell.

The police were called and Mr Tatchell was dragged from the auditorium. Soon after he was removed, another ZFY activist, Wellington Chibanguza, aged 24, erupted from the balcony:

“Why do you (Dr Zuma) and your government persist with quite diplomacy when it has failed to deliver?, he asked. Mr Chibanguza was also ejected.

Infuriated that Dr Zuma refused to respond to any questions put to her, or express even a word of sympathy for the plight of her fellow Africans in Zimbabwe, four women activists from ZFY began cat-calls from the balcony. They, too, were hauled out.

By this time, even the officially invited audience became irritated by Dr Zuma’s lack of engagement and absence of empathy.

“Throughout the protests she sat silent, motionless and grim-faced,” said Mr Chibanguza.

“Much of the audience was riled by her arrogant, heartless refusal to express even a few words of solidarity with the Zimbabwean people. They urged her to say something. I think she lost a lot of respect because of her intransigent attitude.

“Although Dr Zuma was greeted by warm applause when she arrived, by the time she finished her speech she hadalienated much of the audience. What really angered people was her final comment, when she did eventually refer briefly to Zimbabwe.

“Dr Zuma said Zimbabweans in Britain had no right to speak out about the situation Zimbabwe. This is a bit much coming Dr Zuma, who spent much of the apartheid era in exile in the UK. That comment really incensed the audience.

“Given the level of the audience disquiet, the organisers curtailed the promised question and answer session. While the ejected ZFY activists continued their protest outside the LSE, Dr Zuma was humiliatingly smuggled out of a side exit to a waiting unmarked car.

“She scuttled away like a rat from a sinking ship,” said Mr Tatchell.

Explaining why the protest was necessary, Mr Mbawara said:

“Polite lobbying of the South African government has got us nowhere. The ANC ignores all cries for help from Zimbabwe. That’s why we had to stage this protest.

“If Mbkei and Zuma spoke out against Mugabe and organised international sanctions against his regime, Mugabe’s control would soon start to unravel. South African inaction is helping to keep him in power,” he said.

Mr Tatchell added:

“The ANC once led a heroic liberation struggle. Now it is turning its back on the ideals of liberation and international solidarity. Some of its leaders have become complacent and corrupt. It spends vast sums on armaments, while complaining there is not enough money to combat HIV, fund land reform and treat Zimbabwean refugees humanely.

“Mbeki’s and Zuma’s collusion with President Mugabe is corroding the ANC’s integrity and reputation,” he concluded.

Background statement by Free Zim Youth:

With echoes of the protests outside South Africa House on Trafalgar Square during the heroic struggles against the apartheid regime in South Africa, Free Zim Youth demands that the South African government unequivocally condemns the continuing injustice and misrule in Zimbabwe.

Free Zim Youth spokesman, Alois Mbawara, said:

“We Young Zimbabweans feel betrayed by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s quiet diplomacy while we suffer at the hands of Mugabe’s regime. The world has witnessed how the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, MPs and civic leaders have been brutalised while peacefully demonstrating for fair wages and basic human rights.”

“South Africa has blocked calls for the UN to probe human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and it has endorsed Zimbabwe’s elections, even though they were conducted in an atmosphere of violent intimidation by Mugabe’s henchmen.

“Dr Zuma and President Mbeki know that the Zimbabwe government violates SADC and AU democratic principles. By remaining silent, they tacitly endorse these violations,” he said.

Wellington Chibanguza, another organiser of the Free Zim Youth movement said:

“We salute COATU and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They have spoken out against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. They stand in solidarity with ordinary Zimbabweans. Mbeki, Zuma and the ANC see nothing, hear nothing and do nothing.”

“The Zimbabwean people supported South Africans in the fight against apartheid. Now it is time for South Africa to support Zimbabweans in the fight against Mugabe’s dictatorship.

“During the fight against apartheid, the ANC called for international solidarity to help topple the white minority regime in Pretoria. When Zimbabweans ask for international solidarity against Mugabe’s tyranny, the ANC government turns its back on our struggle for democracy and human rights.

“Earlier this year, Dr Zuma told the world that Zimbabwe is not at the top of South Africa’s international agenda. South Africa’s priorities are, she said, Iran, Sudan and UN reforms. We young Zimbabweans say that charity begins at home. The ANC must not ignore the humanitarian disaster on its own door step. Millions of Zimbabweans are jobless, impoverished and starving as a result of Mugabe’s misgovernance,” concluded Mr Chibanguza.

“Mugabe has killed tens of thousands of Zimbaweans but he cannot kill a nation and its yearning to be free.”

“Amandla Awethu” (“Power to the People”/ “Power is Ours”)