Biti lashes Mbeki’s ‘quiet diplomacy’

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ZIMBABWE – Ex-Finance minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti has accused former South African president Thabo Mbeki of having failed to negotiate a fair Global Political Agreement (GPA), which ushered in Zimbabwe’s short-lived coalition government.

The fiery lawyer told South African Talk Radio Station 702 yesterday that Mbeki had seemingly been obsessed with fostering a unity government between Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after the hotly-disputed 2008 elections — in which Morgan Tsvangirai beat President Robert Mugabe — rather than helping to find a lasting solution for the country.

Biti was responding to Mbeki’s weekend opinion piece in which the ex-African National Congress (ANC) leader  — who was hounded out of office by his party comrades for his alleged “Zanufication” of his administration — attempted to explain South Africa (SA)’s so-called “quiet diplomacy” on Zimbabwe while he was in power.

“Quiet diplomacy meant a preference for stability over democracy … The energy should have been focused on setting conditions to allow for free and fair elections,” Biti said.

“The MDC won the 2008 elections fair and clean. There was no need for a run-off … How can you go for a run-off when presidential results were not out?

“Mbeki wanted president Mugabe to have a second chance. Mugabe knew he would win because he was going to unleash violence on the people,” he added.

Speaking on the same programme, Zimbabwean scholar and activist, Brian Raftoppolus said Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy had been a disaster.

“If you want proof that it was a disaster you just have to look at Zimbabwe now,” he said.

In the meantime, the British High Commission in SA has responded to claims by Mbeki that the United Kingdom wanted to invade Zimbabwe, saying that the troubled country’s future was for the people of Zimbabwe to decide, not Britain’s.

The former ANC leader had said in an online newsletter at the weekend that ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair had wanted to send soldiers to Harare to effect regime change, before the 2002 elections — claims he first made in an interview in 2013.

The ex-president said SA Human Settlements minister, Lindiwe Sisulu — who was then Intelligence minister — was told directly by the London and American governments that there were western plans to overthrow Mugabe.

Mbeki said it was his opposition to these plans that had led to the strong criticism of his controversial quiet diplomacy policy.

“…Sisulu had to make a number of trips to London and Washington to engage the UK and US governments on their plans for Zimbabwe, with strict instructions from our government to resist all plans to impose anything on the people of Zimbabwe, including by military means,” he said.

“Accordingly, it was not from hearsay or third parties that we acquired the knowledge about Western plans to overthrow (Mugabe), but directly from what they communicated to a representative of our government,” Mbeki — who has come under stinging attack in SA for his “lopsided” missives — wrote.

On his part, Blair has denied pressuring the then Pretoria government for help to remove Mugabe militarily.

“…Blair has long believed that Zimbabwe would be much better off without Robert Mugabe and always argued for a tougher stance against him, but he never asked anyone to plan or take part in any such military intervention,” a spokesman for the ex-Downing Street leader said in 2013.

Mbeki also suggested in his letter that London had a major part to play in Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reforms, which are widely believed to have precipitated the country’s economic collapse.

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