SA mends its Harare fences

2013-08-04 14:00

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State moves to heal bruised relations after fallout in the run-up to Zimbabwe’s elections

As Zanu-PF swept back into power with an overwhelming two-thirds majority yesterday, the South African government was preparing to mend the relations bruised in the rush to get everything in place on time for this week’s elections in Zimbabwe.

The South African government and the ANC this week reserved official comment on Zimbabwe’s elections while awaiting the results.

Continental observer missions like the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union had declared the elections free, but questioned the fairness in the light of several alleged irregularities.

A senior staffer in South Africa’s department of international relations said relations with Zimbabwe would have to be mended again following President Robert Mugabe’s vicious attack on President Jacob Zuma’s envoy, Lindiwe Zulu, in the run-up to the elections.

The ANC, which regularly meets Zanu-PF as part of its solidarity outreach to African liberation movements, earlier said it would raise the issue at the next meeting.

This came after Zulu, as part of the SADC’s facilitation team ahead of the elections, said the July 31 deadline set by Zimbabwe’s high court left too little time to prepare, considering concerns including the reform of the security forces and media freedom.

A Zanu-PF stalwart told City Press Mugabe’s attack on Zulu, whom he called a “street woman” and “stupid”, was “very unusual” because he didn’t usually criticise other African leaders.

“He (Mugabe) has told us several times, ‘I reserve my comment on African leaders’,” said Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.

But he said within Zanu-PF there was a feeling that Zulu was trying to dictate policy to Zuma. “She wanted to get Mugabe back into line and that was undiplomatic.”

Zuma silenced Zulu after repeated attacks by Mugabe. She wasn’t in Zimbabwe this week, instead attending a conference in Brazil where she had served as ambassador.

There wasn’t time to resolve this issue behind the scenes because preparations for the elections kept everyone busy, Gumbo said.

When asked by City Press whether the spat had caused friction, Mugabe said Zulu’s remarks would not affect his relationship with Zuma.

“I’m glad that (it) was corrected and I am glad that she now has learnt to zip her mouth,” he said.

At least two sources close to Mugabe, however, said his relationship with former president Thabo Mbeki was much better.

Zanu-PF’s relationship with the ANC was always more strategic than fraternal, but Mugabe was able to find common ground with Mbeki because of his pan-Africanist leanings.

Zanu-PF leaders also privately admit that Zuma’s lack of formal schooling is a problem to Mugabe, who has seven degrees and who has put in place an education system that has produced the highest literacy rate in Africa.

Relations were also strained recently by rumours from intelligence circles that Mugabe’s party was funding former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and using him to criticise Zuma.

Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) this week urged Zimbabweans to vote for Zanu-PF, a party whose land grab policies the EFF has made its own.

Gumbo, however, said the funding rumour wasn’t true.

Zimbabwe’s youth and indigenisation minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, who has hosted Malema in the country before, also denied the money rumour.

Wednesday’s elections gave Zanu-PF a more than two-thirds majority in Parliament, and the party has already hinted it would use this majority to change “some blatant and pertinent contradictions” in the country’s Constitution.

The Constitution was adopted by a referendum five months before after a lengthy facilitation process by the SADC, headed by South Africa.

Zanu-PF’s secretary for legal affairs, Patrick Chinamasa, said these became apparent “as we were implementing the Constitution”.

He would not say what the contradictions were, but an NGO staffer working in Zimbabwe said the clauses limiting the term of the president to two five-year terms and the one limiting his right to veto legislation might be scrapped.

James Stent, researcher for NGO Good Governance Africa, also said if Zanu-PF implemented its indiginisation plan as radically as it had planned to do, it would be bad for South African investments in the country.

According to the plan, foreign-owned businesses are obliged to surrender 51% of their business to the Zimbabwean government.

South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Vusi Mavimbela, said this week that he preferred not to discuss relations with Zimbabwe.

» Follow our team’s daily coverage from Zimbabwe here and on Twitter @City_Press

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