HARARE – President Robert Mugabe yesterday said African countries should not spread lies about Zimbabwe, in a thinly veiled attack aimed at South African President Jacob Zuma.
The South African president recently criticised Zimbabwe’s preparations for elections, saying the process was “not looking good”.
Addressing a rally at Pelandaba Stadium in Gwanda, the 89-year-old Zanu PF presidential candidate again expressed his reservation on Zuma’s facilitation role, urging him to tame his special adviser Lindiwe Zulu.
“I appeal to president Zuma to stop this woman of theirs for speaking on behalf of the facilitator. We were given only one facilitator with one mouth and that is president Zuma,” Mugabe said.
Zuma is the country’s facilitator in a fractious government of national unity formed in 2008, following a bloody and disputed election. He took over from Thabo Mbeki.
In a further dig of Zuma’s approach to the Zimbabwean issue — portraying him as someone who has given his adviser too much leeway to override his role — Mugabe said during Mbeki’s period, the former president was the only voice to the facilitation process.
Analysts criticised Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy, claiming he was too soft on Mugabe’s government, while Zuma is seen to be taking a tougher stance on the former guerrilla leader and his Zanu PF party.
Two weeks ago, Mugabe took a swipe at Zulu, threatening to pull out of the regional Southern African Development Community (Sadc) bloc at his party’s manifesto launch in Highfield Harare.
This was after Zulu reiterated South Africa’s call to delay the polling date by a few weeks to ensure a free and fair election.
The octogenarian leader described Zulu as a “stupid, idiotic street woman”.
Zulu recently said that Zuma was concerned about the Zimbabwean situation, which he said was not looking good.
Zuma expressed his displeasure with the run-up to the July 31 poll and this should have infuriated Mugabe, leading to his remarks yesterday.
“We do not expect Sadc countries to be raising lies about us, telling others that the situation in Zimbabwe is not peaceful — that the ground is not even,” Mugabe said.
The July 31 poll is a do-or-die exercise, aimed at ending the five-year government of national unity.
Zuma’s verdict to the quality of the voting process has added significance, following the barring of European Union and United States election observers.
The United States said it was deeply concerned by a lack of transparency in the run-up to the poll.
However, Mugabe, whom analysts say has nothing much to lose considering his advanced age, is on record telling Western countries to stay away from affairs to do with Zimbabwe.
Ironically in his speech yesterday, Mugabe called upon Sadc, the African Union and the rest of the world to assist in the election process.
The Zanu PF leader who has been in power for the past 33 years, characterised by a serious economic meltdown told the gathering that once his party gets back into government, it was going to open new industries and revamp the old ones to create more employment.
He also promised to improve civil servants’ salaries, while urging people to vote peacefully.
His wife Grace also took the opportunity to donate foodstuffs, including cooking oil and salt.
The July 31 poll has been marred with controversy, with Mugabe’s main rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai accusing Mugabe of applying rigging tactics, intending to extend his rule by five more years.
Questions have been raised over the just ended special voting process, where huge members of police officers failed to cast their vote due to shortage of ballot papers.
People have queried Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s preparedness for the rushed election.