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Zim crisis peripheral in Mbeki’s address

Dumisani Muleya

SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki is today widely expected to a make only a passing reference to the Zimbabwe crisis which has dogged his foreign policy and negatively impacted on his inter

national reputation for the past four years during his State of the Nation address to parliament.

Political analysts said yesterday Mbeki would dwell on issues concerning South Africa, as well as global developments, in view of the forthcoming general election.

University of Zimbabwe Institute for Development Studies Professor Brian Raftopoulos said Mbeki would not focus on Zimbabwe but on his government’s performance.

“He is going to concentrate on what he perceives as his government’s achievements so far,” Raftopoulos said. “I don’t think he will dwell much on Zimbabwe. After all, there is nothing positive for him to report on what is going on in the country. He might mention the issue of talks (between Zanu PF and the MDC) but only in passing.”

South Africa’s Witwatersrand University international relations analyst Professor John Stremlau said: “I think Mbeki will have to say something about Zimbabwe but I don’t think he will say much.”

Professor Willie Breytenbach of Stellenbosch University said Mbeki would focus on issues that would win him votes. “He won’t talk about Aids or Zimbabwe or the arms deal. He’ll stick to issues that will be catching more votes,” he said.

However, Breytenbach warned that South Africa’s black civil society was also restless about Mbeki’s silence on the human rights abuses taking place in Zimbabwe.

“While there is admiration for what Bob (President Robert Mugabe) does in terms of land there is concern over the human rights abuses, the bullying of trade unions and the closing down of media,” he said.

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