The South African government criticized local media Thursday for publishing what it called “misleading" and "sensationalist” reports on the Zimbabwe crisis.
The accusation from the cabinet followed a briefing by President Thabo Mbeki on last week’s Southern African Development Community summit in Lusaka, Zambia.
The cabinet issued a written statement saying that contrary to media reports, regional leaders had agreed on the Zimbabwean situation and that the facilitation process – diplomatic language for Mr. Mbeki's crisis mediation - was on course.
The statement added that the cabinet rebuked “misleading and fictitious reports in some South African media” which said that SADC leaders were divided on how to move forward on Zimbabwe, and that the talks between Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were in trouble.
One target for the criticism appeared to be Business Day, which reported that SADC leaders had been "sharply divided at their tense summit in Zambia on how to deal with Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis."
The paper reported that during the summit, "President Robert Mugabe and his ministers argued the economic crisis in Zimbabwe had been caused by sanctions imposed on the country by the U.S. and the European Union over repression and human rights abuses. Other SADC leaders, including President Thabo Mbeki, while acknowledging the sanctions issue, said Mugabe’s policies were also responsible for the crisis. This created a paralysis among leaders, who eventually could not come up with concrete measures to deal with the situation."
South African government spokesman Themba Maseko told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the official reprimand was aimed solely at the South African media.