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S. Africa Regrets 'Unfortunate' and 'Unauthorized' Zimbabwe Comments

President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma

South African President Jacob Zuma’s office on Sunday released a statement 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 SADC facilitator in Harare.

The public pronouncement follows complaints by President Robert Mugabe urging Mr. Zuma to gag his outspoken International Relations Advisor, Lindiwe Zulu, who has continued to irritate the Zanu-PF hierarchy by publicly expressing concern about preparations for this month’s polls.

The statement said the facilitator's technical team, comprising head Charles Nqakula, Zuma's Special Envoy and spokesperson Mac Maharaj and International Relations Advisor Lindiwe Zulu, only supports and cannot impose its views on Zimbabwe nor make public comments, adding only President Zuma has the mandate to speak on Zimbabwe on behalf of SADC.

“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 statement said it was not true that Zuma had telephoned President Mugabe to express his unhappiness about preparations for the Zimbabwean elections. “No such telephone call has been made. The report is incorrect,” the statement said.

“President Zuma has also been alerted to inappropriate postings in the social media on the Zimbabwean situation," read the statement, adding that South Africa remained fully committed to "warm historical relations" with Zimbabwe and wishes the people of Zimbabwe well as they prepare for the elections.

Zuma’s spokesman and special envoy Mac Maharaj told VOA the statement was necessary to delay with concerns that had been raised by Harare, at the highest level, adding that the technical team supporting Zuma should not have been making statements about the situation in Zimbabwe.

“So we want to remove this problem. We believe that Zimbabwe has just a few days left before it heads for elections,” said Maharaj.

“We must not allow any side issues to distract the process. Zimbabweans have done a very good job so far in adopting the constitution, in ensuring that the processes are such that there’s no sign of violence, that intimidation is at a low level. We want to encourage that.”

President Mugabe has twice now criticized Zulu and at one time described her as a “street woman” who had tried to block the holding of polls by the end of July.

On Friday President Mugabe told a televised rally in Gwanda, Matabeleland South province, that poll preparations were in fact proceeding smoothly and called on his peers in both SADC and the African Union to stop "pandering to the whims of the hostile" West.

“As we go to elections we expect our friends of SADC, the African Union to assist us in this process by encouraging us and where they are able to do so, then materially also help us to fund the process,” Mugabe said.

“We do not expect SADC countries to be raising lies about us and telling others that the situation in Zimbabwe is not peaceful, that the ground is not even.”

South Africa was appointed by SADC to assist the Zimbabwean political parties to resolve their differences.