A CONTROVERSIAL document cri-ticising Britain over the crisis in Zimbabwe, which was leaked at a Southern African regional summit last month, came from Harare, not South Africa, a senior Zambian official said on Wednesday.
iefing paper on talks between President Mugabe’s government and the Zimbabwean opposition circulated among diplomats ahead of a summit in Lusaka of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in mid-August.
Reuters news agency and some newspapers reported — after being briefed by officials and diplomats in Lusaka — that the document came from South Africa and was to be presented to the summit by President Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating in the crisis.
Media reports said South Africa blamed Britain for the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe by accusing Britain of leading a campaign to “strangle” the beleaguered African state’s economy and saying it had a “death wish” against a negotiated settlement that might leave Mugabe’s Zanu PF in power.
“The most worrisome thing is that the United Kingdom continues to deny its role as the principal protagonist in the Zimbabwean issue and is persisting with its activities to isolate Zimbabwe,” the report said.
“None of the Western countries that have imposed the sanctions that are strangling Zimbabwe’s economy have shown any willingness to lift them.”
South Africa denied it had produced the document, which blamed former colonial power Britain for Harare’s isolation by the West and said London was trying to destroy dialogue between Mugabe’s government and the opposition. But it also said the Zimbabwean government was nearing a deal with the opposition following Mbeki’s mediation.
“The document was actually a Zimbabwe government position paper for the summit concerning the situation in that country and not one from South Africa,” a senior Zambian foreign affairs official said on Wednesday. “There were several documents given to officials prior to the summit and even during the summit, and the mix-up on originality of some of the documents could have been caused by this.”
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said after the summit that the Sadc leaders did not put pressure on Mugabe to enact reforms and had relied on a report to the meeting by Mbeki. South African sources said this was a verbal, not written, report.
At the end of August, Mbeki dismissed suggestions that Sadc leaders had recklessly ignored Zimbabwe’s problems in the interests of solidarity.
Writing in his weekly online newsletter, Mbeki accused Business Day newspaper of publishing a “wholly fabricated story” alleging Sadc leaders were divided over Zimbabwe, and describing a discussion at the Lusaka summit “that never took place”.
“This is consistent with an unethical practice in sections of our media in terms of which they manufacture news and information and communicate complete fiction as the truth,” he said.
The newspaper manufactured an unbridgeable rift resulting in a non-existent paralysis among the leaders, arising out of the discussion that never took place, he said.
The fact of the matter was that, acting on the recommendation of the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security, the summit meeting accepted the report on the Zimbabwe economy, as well as the proposal that finance ministers, in consultation with the government of Zimbabwe, use the report to elaborate specific interventions that could be made by the region. — Mail & Guardian/Sapa/Reuters.