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S.Africa to send special envoys to Zimbabwe amid crackdown

South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday appointed two special envoys to go to Zimbabwe, the presidency said, as its northern neighbour cracks down on dissent and political opposition.

His office said in a statement that he had made the appointment “following recent reports of difficulties that the Republic of Zimbabwe is experiencing”.

Zimbabwe authorities last week banned anti-government demonstrations aimed at protesting deteriorating economic conditions and alleged state corruption.

Days later the Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa warned that he would “flush out” the “bad apples who have attempted to divide our people and to weaken our systems”.

Around 20 activists who held demonstrations in their neighbourhoods after police and soldiers sealed off entry into the city centre, were arrested.

A prominent journalist and an opposition leader were arrested two weeks ago and charged with inciting violence for calling and supporting the protests.

The latest government clampdown sparked outrage on social media with the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter trending worldwide.

Ramaphosa appointed the country’s former speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete and ex-minister Sydney Mufamadi who are expected to travel to Harare when all the arrangements are completed.

“The special envoys are expected to engage the government of Zimbabwe and relevant stakeholders to identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe,” said the presidency.

Mnangagwa took over from longtime ruler Robert Mugabe after a coup in November 2017 and many Zimbabweans complain that the country’s situation has gotten worse since he ascended to power.