News / Africa

    Diplomatic Hiccup Shows Delicacy of Harare, Pretoria Ties

    South African President Jacob Zuma and President Robert Mugabe, right, shake hands after discussions in Harare, March 18, 2010.
    South African President Jacob Zuma and President Robert Mugabe, right, shake hands after discussions in Harare, March 18, 2010.
    South Africa has generally had strong relations with Zimbabwe, but some say a last week's hiccup over criticism of election preparations reveals the diplomatic fine line the southern African nations walk.
     
    Last week, Lindiwe Zulu, a top international advisor to South African President Jacob Zuma, voiced concern that Zimbabwe was not well-prepared for the July 31 election, saying Zuma had spoken to Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe by phone about the matter.
     
    President Mugabe responded quickly, calling Zulu a "stupid and idiotic street woman" who should be restricted from speaking about the vote.
     
    Zuma's office then released a statement saying it regretted the unauthorized statements and denying there had been any such phone call in which Zuma criticized election preparations. Clayton Monyela, South Africa's head of public diplomacy, said only Zuma would speak on matters relating to his responsibilities as a facilitator bilateral mediation.
     
    "There was a concern obviously raised by the president of Zimbabwe with regards to who speaks on behalf of the mediation facilitation team," said Monyela. "So that matter has been dealt with. ... It's an exaggeration to say [it] translated into tensions. We've got good, healthy, cordial, friendly, historical relations with the government of Zimbabwe as a country, on a bilateral level."
     
    But experts suggest the relationship has its own share of complexities.
     
    Gilbert Khadiagala, who teaches at the University of Witwaterand's Department of International Relations, said Zuma's predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, had used what many called a quiet diplomacy with Mugabe, rarely criticizing him in public, though sometimes arm twisting in private.
     
    Unlike Mbeki, he added, Zuma has been harsher on Mugabe. "I'm saying the recent incidents around Lindiwe Zulu show that he's departing from that line of toughness," Khadiagala said. "When you lose that toughness, you undercut all these efforts by the regional actors. So I think Zuma has been doing very well until very recently, [and] I think he's now beginning to look like he's kowtowing to Mugabe."
     
    Caving to Mugabe's demands on Zulu, Khadiagala says, indicates Zuma's unwillingness to upset relations.
     
    "I can imagine that Zuma doesn't really want to rock the boat, because he's the leader of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) group on Zimbabwe," Khadiagala said. "And they are interested in a soft landing during these elections. I don't think they want to antagonize Mugabe."
     
    But he also says that position weakens South Africa and the SADC, which is helping to facilitate and oversee the elections.
     
    "When Lindiwe Zulu is rebuked by Zuma it looks like South Africa is actually looking very weak," he said. "And that weakness is translated into a very weak SADC, that has been weakening every day. My point is that SADC is becoming even weaker when it comes to Zimbabwe and that's not a very good sign."
     
    There is also a historical pressure for mutual support, as the parties of Presidents Zuma and Mugabe are linked through liberation movements.
     
    "The historical links between the liberation movement parties — ZANU-PF [and] ANC — is very much a cozy relationship," he said. "There's a lot of pressure here in South Africa within the ANC not to criticize Zimbabwe, because they look at Mugabe as the freedom fighter."
     
    That pressure, he said, makes behind-the-scenes diplomacy an easier route.
     
    "These are single party mentalities that have been historically forged over the years," he said. "It's essentially a continuation of the quiet diplomacy under Mbeki, that South Africa should not be seen to be too harsh on Mugabe, because maybe if you talk to him quietly, maybe he's going to change."
     
    Khadiagala is predicting a win for the 89-year-old Mugabe.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: siyabonga khumalo
    July 28, 2013 10:15 AM
    quiet diplomacy/arm twisting has cost many people their lives in zimbabwe, gilbert - please dont bluff people, coziness has cost far too many people their lives and you know this - maybe a teaching
    spell there will help you understand better how the people are struggling to live

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.