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South African Government Denies Criticizing Britain Over Zimbabwe

The South African government is denying reports that President Thabo Mbeki will blame Britain for Zimbabwe’s economic problems. A number of observers and analysts also deny those rumors.

In recent days, bits and pieces of an alleged draft report President Mbeki will present to the Southern African Development Community have been leaked to the media.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

“The president’s office issued a statement today in which they categorically stated that this is not a report that has its origins in any office of the South African government. They said they have not seen the report (and) are unable to comment on its origins, but that it’s not a South African report,” she says.

Regarding the allegation that Mr. Mbeki will criticize the British, Robertson says, “It sort of flies in the face of what South Africa hopes Britain’s role will be if the mediation in Zimbabwe is fruitful. They hope that Britain will be extremely supportive and help with the reconstruction of the country. And so, if they were to make statements like this it would clearly alienate the British government and perhaps foul any chance of them bringing the British government on board for reconstruction if it gets to that point.”

As for possible origins of the alleged report, she says, “There have been some rumors floating around that it is the product of the Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Organization. I haven’t seen the document. I have been trying to get my hands on it. So, it’s difficult to assess, but essentially what I understand is that some diplomats in Lusaka are reading excerpts of this document to journalists. And that is how the story originated.”

President Mbeki has been silent on his mediation efforts and the report he’ll present to SADC this week. “The only comment about what may or may not be in that report is what the deputy foreign minister said today. And he said that there is no word of any allegation against Britain in the report. I suspect the report will be quite careful because…not a great deal of progress has been made in the mediation. But I’m sure Mr. Mbeki will try and make the best of it,” she says.

Robertson says it’s unclear whether the Mbeki report will be made public at this week’s SADC summit in Lusaka.