Zuma cracks whip after Mugabe telephone call


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President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

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  • Companies and organisations: Southern African Development Community
  • People: Robert Mugabe | Jacob Zuma

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma sharply rebuked an unnamed member of his Zimbabwe facilitation team on Sunday in what appeared to be an attempt to mollify President Robert Mugabe.

The 89-year-old leader has attacked Lindiwe Zulu, Mr Zuma’s foreign affairs adviser, for some of her comments ahead of the July 31 elections in Zimbabwe, referring to her as stupid, idiotic and a “street woman”.

Mr Mugabe told a campaign rally at the weekend that Mr Zuma should rein in Ms Zulu after she was quoted as saying that there were still “challenges” in the run-up to the vote.

“I appeal to President Zuma to stop this woman of theirs from speaking on Zimbabwe,” news agency AFP quoted Mr Mugabe as saying. He is seeking to extend his 33-year grip on power by another five years.

On Sunday night the Presidency in Pretoria expressed regret about “unauthorised statements” by one of the three-member facilitation team, which is composed of Charles Nqakula, South Africa’s high commissioner to Mozambique, Mr Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj and Ms Zulu.

There seemed to be little doubt that the outspoken Ms Zulu was the subject of Mr Zuma’s ire, although she was not mentioned by name in the statement.

“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,” said the statement, issued by Mr Maharaj.

“The Presidency wishes to correct in particular the reports this weekend that President Zuma telephoned President Robert Mugabe to express his unhappiness about preparations for the Zimbabwean elections. No such telephone call has been made. The report is incorrect.”

The statement came a day after a mini-summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in Pretoria ended without any public criticism of Mr Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party, despite mounting concern about poor organisation.

A communiqué on Sunday merely referred to “problems” during special voting by the police and army a week ago and commended Mr Mugabe’s government for inviting electoral observers from Sadc’s 15 members.

Mr Zuma hosted the summit over dinner on Saturday night.

Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Armando Guebuza of Mozambique were present.

There will be several hundred election observers from Sadc and a few dozen from the African Union at the polls, but Mr Mugabe has banned any from Europe or the US.

With Sapa-AFP

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