Johannesburg - The Presidency has publicly distanced itself from Lindiwe Zulu, President Jacob Zuma’s foreign policy adviser and member of his Zimbabwe facilitation team, after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe publicly appealed to Zuma to rein her in.
In a clear reference to Zulu, the Presidency issued a statement on Sunday noting “with great concern, recent unfortunate statements made on the situation in Zimbabwe, which have been attributed to a member of the technical team supporting the facilitator, President Jacob Zuma”.
It said a number of statements had been made during Zuma’s facilitation of the Zimbabwe negotiations “which have been unauthorised and which are regrettable and unfortunate. Some of the utterances have also been inaccurate”.
The statement specifically denied a news agency report on Friday that quoted Zulu saying Zuma had phoned Mugabe to express his unhappiness about preparations for the July 31 elections.
The statement said the technical team supporting Zuma as facilitator “cannot impose its views on Zimbabwe nor make public pronouncements”. Only Zuma could do this.
It ended by saying “South Africa remains fully committed to the warm historical relations” with Zimbabwe and wished it well in its elections.
The statement came just a day after Mugabe said at an election campaign rally; “I appeal to President Zuma to stop this woman of theirs from speaking on Zimbabwe”.
A week before, Mugabe had referred to Zulu as an “idiotic streetwoman”.
Mugabe and his Zanu-PF lieutenants, especially propaganda chief Jonathan Moyo, have systematically attacked Zulu almost throughout Zuma’s facilitation of the negotiations.
But that seemed to be only because she was accurately reflecting Zuma’s frustration with Zanu-PF’s obstruction of the reforms it had agreed on with its MDC partners in government to create conditions for free, fair and credible elections.
The SADC Secretariat, which should have been informing media about the process, has provided virtually no information. On Saturday, Zuma hosted a summit of SADC’s security troika in Pretoria to discuss its concerns about the poll.
After the summit, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, current chair of the security troika, warned that it would be “tough” to organise the elections in such a short time.
“We would have wished that our advice would have been heeded,” he told Sapa-AFP, referring to SADC’s request to Zimbabwe last month, which was turned down, to postpone the election to allow more time for preparation and reforms.
Putting together an election within a month “is very stressful”.
“That’s why we are seeing even the incidents of the early voters, where half of them couldn’t vote, partly because it is the brevity of time” Kikwete said, referring to the chaotic special voting last week.
* This story has been edited to remove references to an unverified Twitter account.