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South Africans Closely Watching Neighboring Zimbabwe


South Africans are keeping a close watch on developments in neighboring Zimbabwe. The political crisis there has affected South Africa in a number of ways in recent years.

To find out more, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke with VOA reporter Delia Robertson. From Johannesburg, she describes South African reaction to the current turmoil.

“You could say that the general reaction in South Africa is one of extreme dismay and concern and even outrage about the developments in Zimbabwe. South Africans are extremely concerned about what’s happening to the people of Zimbabwe. Also, what implications this might have for Zimbabwe’s future, which can have an impact on this country,” she says.

The effects of Zimbabwe’s crisis can be seen in South Africa. Robertson says, “I suppose the main impact has been the number of Zimbabweans who have fled to South Africa. Some give the number as high as three million…since 2000. Other than that, there’s a perception, although I think not quite as much now as it was a few years ago, that what happens in Zimbabwe may spill over into South Africa and that South Africans themselves would start demonstrating similar behaviors to those that are seen in Zimbabwe, political behaviors, that is. But I don’t think that is currently viewed as likely.”

In the past, opposition parties have criticized South African president Thabo Mbeki for not doing enough to help solve the Zimbabwe situation. Asked whether that criticism continues, the VOA reporter says, “That criticism still continues, not only from opposition parties in South Africa…it’s fairly widespread. Mr. Mbeki’s government tends to be very quiet when it becomes involved in matters affecting other countries. Mr. Mbeki likes to keep things very close to his chest and not speak about what he’s doing and doesn’t communicate easily or openly about these matters.

“What I have heard though is that he is very central to discussions going in SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) at the moment about what the way forward would be for Zimbabwe.”

Robertson says that it appears Mbeki played a major role in the meeting last week between Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and his Tanzanian counterpart, Jakaya Kikwete.