Former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma says the debate on the political crisis in Zimbabwe has been internationally overblown, making it difficult to amicably resolve the impasse. He said what is causing the tension between the Mugabe-led ZANU-PF government and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is a political disagreement over how to move the country forward.
Zuma, who is affectionately called “Musholoozi” by his teaming supporters, adds that the Zimbabwe situation is a unique one, which needs to be carefully understood before it could be resolved. He admits the crisis has taken a rather long time, which he said has put pressure on surrounding countries in the southern Africa sub-region. From Johannesburg, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that he reposes great confidence in South African President Thabo Mbeki to help resolve the political impasse in Zimbabwe.
“In Zimbabwe, we are dealing with the political tension that is not yet a war, which is not also based on ethnicity, which is based on the political disagreement as to how Zimbabwe must be run. And of course I know it has taken too long, and I don’t think it is desirable. By now that issue should be resolved. It is not also good for the neighbors because of its impact to the neighbors. We in South Africa, for example, receive thousands and thousands of refugees from Zimbabwe. And I don’t think that is healthy because it means the Zimbabwe situation in a sense spills over to the neighbors,” Zuma pointed out.
He said although the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been trying to resolve the situation in Zimbabwe, the crisis has received negative debate on the international stage.
“SADC has always tried to deal with this issue. The problem in Zimbabwe becomes a little bit difficult because of the manner in which it is debated internationally. I think it does impact in a particular way within the regions and in Zimbabwe. But we are hopeful that the matter would be resolved,” he said.
Zuma defended South Africa’s quiet diplomacy approach to the Zimbabwe situation.
“From our point of view, since the beginning of the conflict, the ANC (African National Congress) on one hand, and the government on the other, the government of course took the lead because of the relations between governments. We took the view that instead of standing out there and shouting and criticizing, that is not going to help us,” Zuma noted.
He said the best solution to the crisis is for an intense, open and trustworthy dialogue between the ruling ZANU-PF government and the opposition MDC.
“I do not think that there is any other solution that you can find in a situation of tension except opening up a possibility of dialogue, and debate engagement. What I think in Zimbabwe has not happened is intensive and very deep negotiation with an aim to find the resolution. I think there have been many distractions, and many things that has been happening that the kind of interaction has not been that very effective because the kind of attention and suspicion hasn’t been allowed to flourish… I think the more vigorous engagement particularly by the region and with supportive kind of decisions taken by the globe, I think it will go a long way,” he said.
Zuma said he would like to be remembered as somebody who rose through the ranks of the ANC through hard work.
“I don’t think you can look at Jacob Zuma without the ANC. In the first instance what the ANC has done in the history of South Africa, during the struggle and indeed in the manner in which it resolved the problem, and how it has been handling the country. Jacob Zuma should be taken in that context as a cadre of this movement…and I would love that when people look at Jacob Zuma, must look at the cadre who grew within the ranks to senior kind of cadre ship and what is it that he did carrying out instructions and indeed implementing the policies of the ANC,” he said.