22 July 2013

Zimbabwe: SA's Zulu Silenced As SADC Yields to Mugabe

South African President Jacob Zuma has silenced a key member of his Zimbabwe facilitation team, Lindiwe Zulu, after appeals by Robert Mugabe to rein her in.

Zulu, who is also Zuma's international relations advisor, has been the focus of ZANU PF's outrage in recent weeks because of her outspoken and honest appraisal of the situation in Zimbabwe. Most recently Zulu told some media houses that things in Zimbabwe "were not looking good," and that Zuma was unhappy with the situation ahead of elections.

These comments have further infuriated ZANU PF, which has already been taking aim at Zulu for other statements, including that the region 'hoped' that Zimbabwe's elections would be extended by a month. Calling her Zuma's 'terrier', and a "frustrated and needlessly loquacious woman", ZANU PF analysts have used the party mouthpiece newspaper, the Herald, as a platform to direct its anger at Zulu.

Mugabe, who also joined in the attacks on Zulu by calling her an "idiotic street woman," on Saturday made a public appeal for Zuma to rein her in.

"... may I say that persistent negative voice from South Africa. . . could it please be stopped. I appeal to President Zuma to stop this woman of theirs from speaking on Zimbabwe. We were given one facilitator with one mouth and that is President Zuma himself; that's the voice, the only voice we want to hear," Mugabe told a rally in Gwanda.

Mugabe's appeal was followed by a statement on Sunday by Zuma's spokesperson Mac Maharaj.

"The Presidency has noted with great concern, recent unfortunate statements made on the situation in Zimbabwe, which have been attributed to a member of the technical team supporting the Facilitator, President Jacob Zuma," Maharaj said.

He added: "A number of statements have been made during the facilitation process which have been unauthorised and which are regrettable and unfortunate. Some of the utterances have also been inaccurate."

Maharaj told SW Radio Africa on Monday that from now on, it will only be Zuma that will be the authority on what is happening on Zimbabwe, essentially meaning Zulu has been silenced. Calls to Zulu went unanswered on Monday.

The statement from the South African Presidency also coincided with official communiqués from the regional SADC bloc and the African Union (AU), which both discussed Zimbabwe over the weekend. Both communiqués have drawn criticism from some quarters in Zimbabwe, for appearing to ignore the current real threats to the holding of a credible election next week.

This includes the lack of real reforms as promised by the Global Political Agreement, a chaotic special voting period witnessed last week, and claims that the voters roll is being actively manipulated to ensure a ZANU PF victory.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said on Monday that the SADC and AU positions "critically indicate that the region is prepared to ignore strong evidence in support of electoral process manipulation in Zimbabwe."

"Once again the region is placing relationships before principles-the major root cause of corruption and mismanagement across Africa. The AU's statement at its meeting in Ethiopia and SADC's vow that it will stand by the country to ensure the vote will be 'credible enough' clearly points out to the fact that the region is prepared to sacrifice principles in order to preserve warm historical relations with Zimbabwe," the Forum said.

The Forum's Director Abel Chikomo told SW Radio Africa that Zimbabweans should not expect more from SADC and the AU, calling them an "elite club of leaders," who have their own interests at heart.

"We are expecting too much from SADC and the AU because they are a club, and they will always be there to protect each other's interests. You'd be stupid to think they will admonish Mugabe or ZANU PF, when they know they need Mugabe," Chikomo said.

ZUMA: South Africa regrets unauthorised statements on Zim

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