STATE Security minister Didymus Mutasa last week ruffled the feathers of a South African delegation attending the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security in Victoria Falls by using what the visitors considered undiplomatic language at a state dinner
hosted for them.
This is likely to worsen frosty diplomatic relations between Harare and Pretoria.
Sources who attended the dinner hosted by the Zimbabwean government to welcome the South African dignitaries said the visitors were taken aback by Mutasa’s attacks on SA ambassador Mlungisi Makhalima for making representations to the Zimbabwe government on behalf of dispossessed white farmers from his country.
Mutasa is also alleged to have uttered “sarcastic gibberish” on South Africa’s passing of a law legalising same-sex marriage.
This comes amid a diplomatic tiff last week after the state media announced on Friday that South Africa had scrapped stringent visa requirements on Zimbabweans wanting to travel to that country.
The South African government has since issued a statement denying ever making such an undertaking at the Victoria Falls meeting.
“(The) South African government at no stage during the second session of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security, agreed to waive visa requirements for the Zimbabwe nationals,” a statement from the home office said.
Mutasa’s speech at the dinner, sources said, set a bad tone for the proceedings as it was unprecedented at such a forum where politicians usually exchange niceties about mutual co-operation.
Unconfirmed reports this week said South Africa was considering launching a formal complaint with the Zimbabwe government on Mutasa’s remarks.
Mutasa headed the Zimbabwe delegation to the joint commission. He was delivering a speech “to welcome” the South Africans when he started to refer to issues to do with the land reform.
He told the gathering of about 60, which included SA Defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota and four deputy ministers, of his meetings with Makhalima to deal with the issue of dispossessed South African sugar farmers.
Mutasa insinuated to the gathering that he had told Makhalima that Zimbabwe was taking away land from white farmers and there was nothing to stop him from taking land from white South African farmers whom the ambassador was trying to represent, the sources said.
“He also told the gathering that South Africa was too legalistic in dealing with land distribution, suggesting that Zimbabwe did not necessarily follow the law in executing the land reform programme,” a source said.
Mutasa, according to a source, then opened up on the South African government for passing the Civil Union Act which legalised gay marriages. He indicated that such practices would never be condoned here and was surprised why South Africa as an African country would legalise same-sex unions.
The source said Lekota, who spoke after Mutasa, gave the minister “a lecture” on why South Africa had passed the legislation.
“He said it was not a question of moral righteousness but an issue of freedoms and democracy as enshrined in the South African constitution. He said the issue of moral right or wrong was for God to judge and not humans,” the source said. — Staff Writer.