Jacob Zuma blasts Mugabe for not stepping down

By Alex Bell
09 July 2008

South Africa’s ANC president Jacob Zuma has again strongly rebuked Robert Mugabe for refusing to step down as president.

The ANC leader, who has recently adopted a radically different approach to the crisis from South African President Thabo Mbeki’s widely criticised policy of “quiet diplomacy”, was speaking at a celebratory ANC dinner in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal on Tuesday.

In his speech acknowledging an ANC comrade, Zuma said: “In Africa we have some political leaders who refuse to bow out and try to change the constitution to accommodate themselves as in neighbouring Zimbabwe”.

Zuma, who in December had backed Mbeki’s policy on Zimbabwe, has become increasingly critical and outspoken about the crisis and Mugabe’s stranglehold on power there.

Last month he described the situation as “out of control” and called for urgent intervention by the United Nations and the regional SADC grouping. This damning description of the crisis had come a few hours after an unprecedented condemnation of Mugabe’s violent crackdown on MDC supporters, by the U.N. Security Council.

The criticisms however were to no avail, as days later Mugabe was sworn in for a sixth term as the country’s leader following the sham one-man poll on June 27. The pressure has since been building on Mugabe to step down and put a stop to the ongoing violence.

Micel Schnehage, a journalist with Talk Radio 702 in Johannesburg, told Newsreel on Wednesday that Zuma has consistently lamented Mugabe’s control of Zimbabwe. She said the party president has expressed his “disappointment as a leader” because “the people in Zimbabwe voted for a democracy not a dictator”.

Schnehage said it is likely that Zuma has his own political motivations for adopting a policy as radically different to that of the country’s president. She said with Zuma likely to be voted in as the next South African president, “he is aware of the international opinion on Zimbabwe and is trying to garner support from foreign leaders”. She added that although he has in the past lashed out at Mugabe critics and backed Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy”, it is unlikely he will change his approach now. She said his criticisms have been welcomed and it would be a “political misnomer that will put him in a bad light” if his attitude towards the Zimbabwe crisis changed.

 

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