President Jacob Zuma

Johannesburg - Recent comments made by members of South African President Jacob Zuma's technical team on the situation in Zimbabwe were “unfortunate”, the Presidency said on Sunday.

“The Presidency has noted with great concern, recent unfortunate statements made on the situation in Zimbabwe,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

Maharaj said the comments were attributed to a team member supporting Zuma in his role as a facilitator, with South Africa appointed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to offer assistance to help Zimbabwe's political parties resolve their differences.

Zuma's team included Mozambique high commissioner Charles Nqakula as its head, Maharaj, and Lindiwe Zulu, as international relations adviser to the president.

The AFP news agency reported on Friday that Zulu had said there were challenges leading up to the July 31 elections in Zimbabwe, following problems with early voting.

Thousands of Zimbabwean security forces reportedly could not make their mark in early voting as polling stations opened late and lacked indelible ink, stamps, voter rolls, ballot papers and boxes.

“If things didn't go right in the special vote, those things need to be looked into by the time of elections on July 31,” Zulu said.

Maharaj said the technical team supported Zuma in his role as facilitator and could not impose its views on Zimbabwe, nor make public pronouncements.

“Only President Zuma has the mandate to speak on Zimbabwe on behalf of SADC on facilitation issues,” Maharaj said.

“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.”

The Presidency said reports stating that Zuma had telephoned Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to express his unhappiness about election preparations were incorrect.

“No such telephone call has been made,” said Maharaj.

Zuma had also been alerted to “inappropriate postings” on social media platforms regarding the situation in Zimbabwe.

“South Africa remains fully committed to the warm historical relations with the Republic of Zimbabwe and wishes the people of Zimbabwe well as they prepare for the elections,” said Maharaj. - Sapa