November 21, 2017 Naledi Shange
Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
If Robert Mugabe and his family chose to move to South Africa‚ the government would have to provide them with a house and state security.
“We have done this before‚ when we took in a former head of state‚ and he lived in Pretoria for several years‚” Professor Anthoni van Nieuwkerk, from the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Defence and Security Management, said.
He was referring to South Africa giving refuge to ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family in 2004.
That cost the country about R5-million a year.
The Department of International Relations said at the time: “The monthly costs related to his accommodation‚ transport‚ office staff and security are similar to the cost associated with a South African cabinet minister.”
Aristide stayed in South Africa for about seven years‚ meaning about R35-million of taxpayers’ money was spent on him and his family.
“If we have to do the same‚ although I think it is unlikely‚ [the Mugabes] will probably get a house and state protection for a period of time,” Van Nieuwkerk said.
“They will have the rights and privileges of any citizen‚ but I am not convinced South Africa will agree to this.”
Asked to elaborate‚ Van Nieuwkerk said Zimbabwe’s first lady‚ Grace Mugabe‚ had a pending court case in this country.
“She came here and [allegedly] beat up a South African citizen‚ and people have said that if she comes back here‚ she has to stand trial‚ so that is the first complication‚” he said.
“Our activists will most likely hound them until she stands trial.”
The second issue would be that international human rights activists would most likely come after Mugabe and force him to stand trial for crimes he committed in the 1980s and ‘90s.
“So it wouldn’t be a quiet and peaceful asylum.
“South Africa also needs to ask itself if it wants to be associated with retired dictators.”
But the Mugabes are already familiar with the country‚ and reportedly own several properties in its affluent suburbs. Mugabe’s sons‚ Robert jnr and Chatunga‚ have also spent months in South Africa‚ where they live in an upmarket Sandton apartment.
Van Nieuwkerk said‚ however‚ that the Mugabes also owned properties in Hong Kong and Singapore‚ and could choose to live there.
Dr John Akokpari‚ an associate professor in the department of political studies at the University of Cape Town‚ said that while opposition parties might be against South Africa granting the Mugabes asylum‚ it would be wise for them to agree.
“Opposition parties have in the past suggested the simple toppling of Mugabe to decrease the high number of migrants in the country‚ but South Africa needs Zimbabwe more than Zimbabwe needs South Africa‚” he said.
“Zimbabwe is South Africa’s biggest trading partner in the region‚ and South Africa is constantly looking for areas of investment‚ so it is unlikely they would ever do anything to annoy Zimbabwe.”
If the Mugabe family decided not to come to South Africa‚ Akokpari said they could consider heading to Mozambique‚ Angola or Zambia‚ as these nations had historically received ANC and liberation fighters.
“But the chances are higher that they will come to South Africa‚ and South Africa will most likely accept Mugabe‚” he said.
Van Nieuwkerk‚ however‚ said it would be best if South Africa played an even hand‚ and rather gave the Mugabes temporary accommodation.
“South Africa can house them for a short term as they plan to go to London or elsewhere‚” he said. – TimesLIVE