Mandela slams African tyrants

BY STAFF REPORTERS
HARARE
Sharp differences are emerging among South Africa's leaders over the deepening Zimbabwe crisis after Nelson Mandela made a thinly-disguised attack on President Robert Mugabe as a "tyrant".

This was in contrast to the softly-softly approach of President Thabo Mbeki, who has kept up a show of African solidarity with Mugabe, insisting his failed mediation has worked.

On Monday, South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, speaking at a joint press conference with her visiting New Zealand counterpart, Winston Peters, told critics of Mbeki’s diplomatic policy that nothing would be achieved in Zimbabwe by the noise of empty drums.

At the weekend, Mandela denounced Mugabe and other power-grabbing African leaders. He said ordinary people should depose tyrants who enriched themselves at the expense of their countrymen by “picking up rifles and fighting for liberation”.

Asked by a nosy reporter later whether he was referring to Mugabe, Mandela said: “Everybody here knows who I am talking about. The situation exists in many parts of the world, especially Africa.”

Even as Dlamini-Zuma paid lip service to Mbeki’s diplomacy, Mandela made it clear he had little patience with it and believed other South Africans should speak out forcefully.

Mbeki’s lieutenants were prickly when asked about Mandela’s comments.

“That is Mr Mandela’s view. Mr Mbeki has explained his position in the State of the Nation address,” Mbeki’s spokesman said. “The situation in Zimbabwe is very serious. There are more serious things to do than to look for differences between public officials.”

But a senior SA diplomat suggested Mandela spoke with Mbeki’s blessing.

“He is free to say what everybody feels. Do not underestimate how tough Mbeki is in private talks with Mugabe.”

Meanwhile ZimOnline reports the MDC (Tsvangirai) accusing South Africa of burying its head in the sand and refusing to acknowledge obstacles to free and fair polls and the tilting of the playing field in Mugabe’s favour.

Dlamini-Zuma’s comments that Mugabe could in the few weeks left implement reforms agreed with the opposition were wrong and signified Pretoria’s unwillingness to call a spade a spade, the party said.

“The tragedy is that we have regional friends refusing to call a spade a spade,” said spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

“How can you speak of free and fair elections when the country does not have an independent electoral commission and the opposition still cannot freely organise political meetings?” he asked.

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