Sunday, April 20, 2008
SOUTH AFRICAN President Thabo Mbeki has defended his "quiet diplomacy" approach in Zimbabwe, saying that "loud diplomacy" was no diplomacy and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should be allowed to do its work without undue pressure. Examining criticism of his quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe, President Mbeki asked: "What is loud diplomacy? Well, it is not diplomacy, it can’t be." While some countries "may shout", Southern African countries had a responsibility to try to broker an agreement between Zanu-PF and MDC, Mr Mbeki said. He said ZEC should not be rushed into completing its work.
"I am quite certain it would be wrong for us to be shouting at the ZEC," he said.
President Mbeki, however, said his "no crisis" assessment had been misinterpreted, South African radio reported on Thursday.
"This story I said there was no crisis in Zimbabwe . . . I haven’t the slightest clue where it comes from," Mr Mbeki said following a special United Nations Security Council session in New York, where African leaders rejected Western pressure to condemn Zimbabwe’s elections.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Mbeki said his declaration in Harare last weekend that there was no crisis was in response to a question about "the elections . . . not about the socio-economic conditions or anything like that".
However, the economic and social problems have largely been a result of illegal economic sanctions imposed by the West — at the instigation of Britain, the European Union and the United States — that have seen lines of credit and balance of payments support from multilateral institutions blocked.
Mr Mbeki, Sadc’s mediator in Zimbabwe, has been under fire in recent days for resisting pressure to condemn Zimbabwe.
President Mbeki’s remarks about "loud diplomacy" appeared aimed at British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has been at the forefront of the campaign to demonise Zimbabwe.
There have been indications that the South African leader has been growing increasingly irritated by pressure from Western countries, mainly former colonial power Britain, to take a tougher stance against Zimbabwe.
After attending a conference with Brown in Watford, England, last week, Mr Mbeki was pressed by UK journalists to explain why he was not taking tougher action on Zimbabwe. He retorted: "Zimbabwe is not a South African province, can we agree about that?"
At the Security Council on Wednesday, President Mbeki delivered what media reports called an amazing snub to Brown. Brown had been expected to pressure Mr Mbeki to speak out against Zimbabwe’s polls, but the South African leader cancelled the meeting because of a "diary clash", officials said.
South Africa’s UN ambassador, Mr Dumisani Khumalo, told Times Online that President Mbeki changed the planned meeting with Brown because "he only arrived in the early hours of the morning".
But another South African official said President Mbeki had arrived on time in New York, before 9pm on Tuesday night. After learning of the "clash", Brown cancelled a planned Press conference at the UN Headquarters.
The meeting was replaced by what a British official called a five-10 minute "brush-past" with President Mbeki in a room backstage.
Mr Mbeki, chairing the Security Council summit on African Union-UN co-operation, pointedly made no mention of Zimbabwe.
Stung by Mr Mbeki’s unwavering stance, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai is now calling on Sadc to replace the South African leader with Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa as mediator in Zimbabwe.
Mr Mwanawasa bowed to Brown’s pressure to call a Sadc Extraordinary Summit to discuss the Zimbabwean elections, but the regional body resolved that ZEC should complete its work while Mr Mbeki should continue to mediate on outstanding issues. — Sapa-DPA-Herald Reporter.