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ANC blocks SA public lecture on state of democracy in Zimbabwe and region

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General, Fikile Mbalula has blocked Zimbabwean academic Dr Ibbo Mandaza’s planned public lecture on the state of democracy in Zimbabwe and the region which was supposed to be hosted at Wits University’s O.R Tambo School of Leadership on the 7th of September.

The lecture was meant to take a close look at the state of democracy in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) reflecting on the recent disputed harmonised general elections held in Zimbabwe.

Mbalula, a close ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF government, sent a letter to the university saying that ANC was “engaged in a number of delicate engagements regarding the situation in Zimbabwe.”

“We note that the OR Tambo School has advertised a public lecture to be delivered by Ibbo Mandaza on The State of Democracy in the SADC Region: A Reflection on the National Elections of Zimbabwe on Thursday, 7 September 2023 (invitation attached),” Mbalula said.

“The OR Tambo School of Leadership has a proud tradition of promoting vigorous debate within the ranks of the movement. This must be encouraged.

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“Whilst we respect the institutional autonomy of the School, it is also true that, in the public mind, domestically and internationally, it is inextricably linked to the ANC.

“Furthermore, the lecture is billed as a collaborative effort between the School and the ANC Johannesburg Region. This clearly constitutes an ANC platform.

“At the moment the leadership of the ANC is engaged in a number of delicate engagements regarding the situation in Zimbabwe. In this context, a public lecture, at this time, on what is clearly an ANC platform, would complicate these initiatives.

“It is in this context that we have requested that the lecture should not proceed on Thursday, 7 September 2023.

“We invite you to engage with us further on the details of these matters, and the possibility of the lecture being held in future, in a different format, and on a different platform.”

Zimbabwe’s election held two weeks ago was discredited by international observers due to massive irregularities. Mnangagwa controversially won with 52,6% against main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) 44%.