After two days of early voting in Zimbabwe (July 14-15) were marred by irregularities, a senior South African official got into trouble for having the temerity to say so, the Christian Science Monitor reports
Lindiwe Zulu, former ambassador to Brazil and current international relations advisor to South African President Jacob Zuma, commented that polling in Zimbabwe’s July 31 general election would be challenging.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe responded by railing against Zulu, calling her an “idiotic street woman” and calling on Zuma to stop her from talking about Zimbabwe.
Zuma responded by disavowing Zulu, as did South Africa’s ruling African National Congress.
The South African leader’s soft approach towards Mugabe brings to mind “the Zuma government’s failure to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama for fear of offending the Chinese in 2011,” the newspaper adds.
One key factor behind Zuma’s approach is that he may well believe that Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron hand since 1980, will remain in power one way or another after July 31, and that Pretoria must cooperate with him to prevent widespread post-election violence and a massive refugee flow from Zimbabwe to South Africa.
South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), sent election observers to Zimbabwe last month, and they too reported numerous irregularities including the police and military campaigning for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front).
The DA argues that it is time for Zuma to abandon his soft approach to Mugabe: “It is clear that the South African government’s quiet diplomacy has done nothing to curtail poor pre-election preparations and continued aggression towards voters, especially in rural constituencies. It is now time for President Zuma to consider a hard line approach.”
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