Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has “unfairly ostracised” his outspoken international relations adviser for commenting on the situation in Zimbabwe - despite giving her permission to do so three years ago - sources say.
ANC, government and diplomatic sources told The Star on Monday that the Zuma administration had authorised Lindiwe Zulu to speak to the media and diplomats on developments in the southern African country.
So it came as a shock when the Presidency publicly chastised Zulu for her “unauthorised”, “regrettable” and “unfortunate” comments at the weekend, they added. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity.
Zulu’s public dressing down came days after Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe implored Zuma to sanction the “idiotic street woman” for allegedly imposing her views on his country ahead of the July 31 polls.
Addressing a post-ANC lekgotla briefing at Luthuli House on Monday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe confirmed that Zulu had been “given the responsibility to deal with the media and diplomats” on Zimbabwe.
A senior government official said Zuma had summoned Zulu to explain the comments a news agency attributed to her, in which she was quoted as saying he had called Mugabe to express his unhappiness over poor election preparation.
Zulu apparently disputed the statement, saying it was inaccurate.
Zulu is said to be “hurting”, but has decided to take up the matter with Zuma behind the scenes out of respect for him and the ruling party.
“She has the mandate to speak to the media and diplomats on Zimbabwe. So it’s surprising that she’s being ostracised now.
“But Lindiwe is a diplomat. She will take up the matter after the Zimbabwean elections as they are her primary responsibility,” said an ANC source.
Zulu failed to respond to repeated calls and text messages for comment on Monday.
Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj on Monday night confirmed that Zulu was previously given authority to speak on Zimbabwe, but claimed it was given by members of the facilitation team without Zuma’s consent.
He said, however, Zulu was authorised to speak on processes rather than substantive issues. Maharaj said he blamed himself for not removing Zulu after his appointment as Zuma’s spokesman.
“Partly it was my fault. I didn’t say that now because I am the spokesperson, this responsibility must be passed to me. And at the time, the questions were process issues and not substantive,” said Maharaj.
Zulu angered Mugabe when she bluntly said the elections had to be postponed to allow the media and security reforms necessary for a credible poll.
Mantashe said the ANC would not publicly take up the matter of Mugabe labelling Zulu an “idiotic street woman” because the relationship between the ANC and Zanu-PF allowed the former to raise any concerns behind the scenes.