Former president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

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.

In a statement, the party did not take kindly to Mbeki saying that Mandela-Hlongwane’s tweets were inconsistent with president Cyril Ramaphosa’s message on the land issue. 

“President Thabo Mbeki confesses not to know what the actual Twitter comments of Zindzi Mandela were. However, because of an uncontrollable appetite to appear as a paragon of correctness, he still provides comments. 

“Essentially, the former president comments on things happening on the ground which he has no knowledge of, true to his aloof self,” EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said. 

He added that Mandela-Hlongwane had correctly made the observation that white people in South Africa were beneficiaries of stolen land and that in essence, black people did not need the consent of white people to take back their land. 

Ndlozi said that this was because even by international law, colonialism was an unforgivable crime against humanity. 

“The genuine leap of faith by black people to avoid the path of vengeance and punitive justice has however been repaid by 25 years of continued refusal of recognition by white people. 

“White South Africans refuse to recognise blacks as rightful owners of the land and subject themselves to a constitutional and peaceful land reform process dictated to by black people. 

“Of all people who must deny Zindzi Mandela to voice this frustration is former President Mbeki. This is because as president of South Africa he failed with flying colours to resolve the land question. In fact, he paid no passionate and consistent attention on it as he did the neoliberal restricting of the state,” said Ndlozi. 

He added that Mbeki also seemed not to be “retreating his assault of the Winnie Mandela household”.

“What was wrong with him just saying he has no knowledge of what Zindzi Mandela said? He could not say this because the Winnie Mandela household must always be put to its place: a place of docility,” Ndlozi said.

African News Agency/ANA