Presidency silences Zuma envoy Mugabe called a ‘street woman’

2013-07-22 09:00

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Presidential envoy and Zimbabwe facilitator Lindiwe Zulu had to be “corrected” to ensure that Zimbabwe could have credible elections next week, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj has said.

“The issues are larger than the individual. What is at stake is having credible elections on July 31. The issue is beyond a single individual,” he told SAfm’s AM Live show this morning.

Zulu, President Jacob Zuma’s international relations adviser, has been outspoken about the problems in the run-up to the elections, which included a shortage of ballot papers during the special vote last week.

Asked whether Zulu’s statements were untoward, Maharaj said: “In any situation it is possible that a person will make mistakes, and it is necessary to correct those mistakes.”

He hinted that her utterances had strained relations between the ANC and Zanu-PF, by saying their relations went back to the struggle and this was a mere “hiccup”.

Zulu was silenced by the presidency yesterday, which put out a statement last night saying it had noted “with great concern” the “recent unfortunate statements made on the situation in Zimbabwe”.

One of those statements, reported by news agency AFP over the weekend, was that Zuma had phoned Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to express concern about the way preparations for the elections had been going.

Maharaj said the phone call never happened and that this report was inaccurate. He said he was with Zulu when she phoned the journalist to complain about the reporting.

She will reportedly still be part of Zuma’s facilitation team, which consists of Zulu, Maharaj, and Mozambique high commissioner Charles Nqakula.

The Presidency’s rebuke of Zulu followed shortly after a special SA Development Community (SADC) troika summit in Pretoria on Saturday night to discuss Zimbabwe’s problems, and a day after Mugabe again called on Zuma at a rally in Bulawayo to silence Zulu.

He had previously referred to her as “stupid” and a “street woman”. The presidency didn’t react to this.

Zuma has been appointed by SADC as the chief facilitator in the run-up to the Zimbabwean elections following violence in the 2008 elections.

Maharaj said: “Only President Zuma has the mandate to speak on Zimbabwe on behalf of SADC on facilitation issues.”

He said on Saturday night Zuma tabled his report to the summit. This was to assess progress in the run-up to the Zimbabwean elections following a special SADC summit in Maputo last month.

He said: “The summit noted that all parties have committed to hold elections in a peaceful environment.”

He said the summit also noted the problems in relation to the special vote and have appealed to parties to overcome these procedural issues ahead of next week’s elections.

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