Only Zuma to comment

2013-07-23 00:00

THE South African government has prohibited its spokesperson on Zimbabwe’s election from making any further statements on the event.

Lindiwe Zulu, President Jacob Zuma’s adviser on international relations, had been the spokesperson on the coming elections until Sunday night.

Zulu has in the past month made statements to the media about the challenges that Zimbabwe faces in the run-up to its national election on July 31. This led to Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe making derogatory remarks about her and even referring to Zulu as a prostitute.

In response, Zuma made a statement that he was the only person who could speak on behalf of the SADC region, which includes South Africa, on the facilitation of Zimbabwe’s election.

He said a number of statements had already been made about Zimbabwe that “were unauthorised and some of which were inaccurate”.

Zuma said one of these inaccuracies was that he had called Mugabe over the weekend to express South Africa’s dissatisfaction with the elections.

The SA president said no such call was made and attributed the statement to a member of the technical team (Zulu) who is only supposed to inform the president.

The Presidency yesterday denied that it had succumbed to pressure from Mugabe to silence Zulu.

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said it was clear that the president was the only mouthpiece for the SADC region and that he as Zuma’s spokesperson and the president were the only parties who could speak officially about Zimbabwe.

DA MP Ian Davidson said DA observers in Zimbabwe were sending back worrying reports to South Africa. Davidson said towns in Zimbabwe are being forced to vote for the ruling Zanu-PF party and threatened with violence similar to the 2008 elections.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe defended Zuma’s statement, saying sensitive issues had to be taken into consideration when diplomatic questions were involved, and problems had to be handled via the right channels.

If Zuma and the ANC were unhappy with Mugabe’s statements about Zulu, they would have quietly cleared up these issues with him, Mantashe said.

Mantashe acknowledged that there were worries about the preparations for the election and said it was impossible to say whether the ballot would be free and fair.

“This is why there are observers and they will make an announcement after the election about this.”

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