Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has told fellow citizens to stay clear of criticising President Robert Mugabe, adding that it is the Zimbabweans who should have a say on whether their leader should remain or leave.
Mbeki, who was speaking during a discussion with young people involved in his foundation in Johannesburg on Saturday, said leaders who have "overstayed their welcome" must be shown the door by their own people.
"I would fight with any South African who stands up to say: 'I, as a South African, say Robert Mugabe must go'," said the broker of Zimbabwe's now defunct unity government.
"I say it is none of your business. It is the business of the people of Zimbabwe...
"If the people of Zimbabwe think that President Mugabe has overstayed his welcome, let them say...president, please go away."
Mbeki insisted "The colonial system was exactly about taking away the possibility for us to determine our own (destiny)".
"Now, I sit here as a South African and me, I'm going to say to the Zimbabweans: 'You shut up. I'm going to decide for you who your leader is' ... It is wrong," stated Mbeki.
Comments by South Africa's second post-Apartheid leader, who was also ousted as President before he completed his second term, could have been directed at South African opposition leaders who have taken turns to scorn President Mugabe for clinging on.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said February this year that President Mugabe should realise he was now too old and must step down.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has also torched a storm after calling "grandpa" Mugabe to leave office, adding that "his overstay is not doing justice on the African revolution project".
Mbeki's own brother, Moeletsi Mbeki, a political economist, is also a strong critic of the Zimbabwean leader at one time saying Mugabe deserved an 'award' for bad leadership.
When he led negotiations towards the formation of Zimbabwe's inclusive government in 2008, then President Mbeki infuriated the opposition when he brokered a deal which favoured President Mugabe, who had at the time, just lost the first round of the elections to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe had, however, muscled his way back through a highly disputed poll which saw his challenger drop out of the contest following massive violence on MDC-T structures in some parts of the country.