2008 violence: Mbeki’s hands tied by ANC

Ousted SA President Thabo Mbeki received a damning written report by a delegation of retired generals about post-election violence in Zimbabwe four years ago, a very senior government official has confirmed.

Thabo Mbeki.
Thabo Mbeki.

He says Mbeki failed to act on the report as interference by the ruling African National Congress curbed his executive powers.

Speaking exclusively to The Zimbabwean, the official, who worked in the office of the President, revealed that a report was submitted by the delegation, which included retired generals and current Defence Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu. He lamented Mbeki’s removal from the office as a stumbling block in the release of the report’s findings.

“UnfortunatelyMbeki was ousted by the ANC while he was still dealing with the issue of election violence in Zimbabwe. The report then fell into the hands of the new administration,” said the official.

He confirmed that Mbeki saw the report but said Luthuli House (ANC headquarters) had barred him from involving himself in any political matters.

“He had no executive powers and gave in to their demands, as he never wanted to involve himself in unnecessary squabbles,” he said.

Human rights groups accused Mugabe of unleashing a systematic campaign of violence on opposition supporters after his Zanu (PF) lost control of Parliament to the MDC in the March 2008 elections. In May and June Mbeki tasked six retired generals to assess the extent of the army’s involvement in the political crisis. Mbeki never released their findings. Neither did his successor, Kgalema Motlanthe.

In his opinion, Mbeki was the “perfect candidate” to handle the Zimbabwean issue because he had “a common understanding with President Mugabe”.

“Mbeki understood Mugabe well. He is the only one who could have convinced him (Mugabe) to pressurise his generals to accept the coalition government – because they didn’t want it.

“What I know is that Zuma’s administration has the report. We will wait for their rightful time to release it,” said the official.

Thabo Masebe, Communications Officer in the Deputy President’s office also confirmed that the Mbeki received a written report of the findings on post-election violence in the country.

“The former president got that written report from a delegation of generals. I don’t know how he handled it but I believe it helped him to broker the coalition government deal,” he said.

In 2009, President Jacob Zuma’s office rejected requests to release the document, saying it did not exist as the generals commissioned by former president Thabo Mbeki to investigate abuses never reported to him in writing. Piers Pigou, director of the SA History Archives, said at the time the presidency was lying.

The SAHA, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the SA Centre for Survivors of Torture and the Democratic Allianceinvoked the Promotion of Access to Information Act in an attempt to force Zuma to release the report. The Mail & Guardian newspaper has taken the government to court over the matter. The case is pending.

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