Pretoria - Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has denied widespread media reports that he called on government to take action against Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane, South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark, for labelling white people as beneficiaries of stolen land via Twitter.
On Monday night, the Thabo Mbeki Foundation clarified that the former president answered questions posed to him by a Sunday Tribune reporter, and that during the interview the journalist asked whether Mbeki had read the ambassador's tweets on the land question.
"His reply was that he had not read the tweet. President Mbeki, however, explained the discipline and culture of the diplomatic world in which, as representatives of the president of the Republic and broadly the government, ambassadors and high commissioners represent official government policy; not their views and opinions," said the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.
"This is so in part because the system of government, as indeed the fabric of foreign policy, would be seriously imperilled were officials to express their personal views as and when they see fit. This has absolutely nothing to do with Ambassador Mandela’s views or her right to hold her views."
The Foundation said Mbeki had explained that prior to taking action, if such action was contemplated, the president or government would have to consider Mandela-Hlongwane's comments relative to the positions of government on the land question.
"At no point did he call for any action to be taken against Ambassador Mandela. This is borne out by everything the journalist quoted from President Mbeki," said the Foundation.
"We would like to caution members of the public to beware methods of mobilisation by means of false, emotive narratives and caricatures of derogation. Such methods do not in the least advance public understanding of vital political and public policy matters. To the contrary, they whip up a frenzy which serves the interests of the system we need to transform for the benefit of our people as a whole."
Earlier on Monday, the Julius Malema-led Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) slammed Mbeki for the reported call on government to take action against the ambassador.