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South Africa Resists International Pressure To Isolate, Censure Mugabe


South Africa is under intense pressure at home and abroad for failing to take a stand against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe over the deepening humanitarian and political crisis in its neighbor to the north, but Pretoria has refused to be swayed on its approach.

The U.S. and British governments dispatched top diplomats to Pretoria this week to lobby the government of South African President Kgalema Motlanthe for support for the Western drive to force Mr. Mugabe to step down. Washington and London both say that Mr. Mugabe should have no role in a proposed but long-delayed Zimbabwean national unity government.

Archbishop emeritus and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu also took a swipe at Pretoria, saying it failed to stand up to Mr. Mugabe and betrayed the anti-apartheid legacy. Tutu told the BBC that if necessary violence could be used to take Mr. Mugabe out of office, and that the 84-year-old president should then be indicted by the International Criminal Court.

Critics took the South African government to task for providing Harare with 300 million rand (US$310 million) aid which it earlier earmarked for agricultural assistance but withheld saying that the funds would only be released when a unity government was formed.

The funds have been made available to Harare through the Zimbabwe Humanitarian and Development Assistance Framework recently established by the Southern African Development Community, also under fire for its handling of the crisis.

Millions of Zimbabweans depend on international food aid to stave off starvation, and the country has been ravaged by a cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 1,200 lives.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe interviewed Thabo Masebe, a spokesman for South African President Kgalema Motlanthe who said Pretoria remains committed to bringing about political and other reforms in Zimbabwe.

Chris Mutsvangwa, an information official with Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, said the South African aid is being distributed through traditional chiefs generally considered to be aligned with Mr. Mugabe, and dismissed the criticism of Pretoria as immature.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation led by prime minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai refused to comment on the South African assistance.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera said that in creating a relief framework SADC has taken the easiest way out of the crisis, and must pressure Mr. Mugabe for reforms.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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