Nduduzo Tshuma Bulawayo Bureau
FORMER South African president Cde Thabo Mbeki has said the British policy of regime change in Zimbabwe is not for the benefit of the local majority, but to serve the interests of the former colonial masters’ kith and kin.
Cde Mbeki, who brokered the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in 2009 which ushered in the inclusive Government that ran to 2013, said the British joined the chorus of criticising South Africa for “quiet” diplomacy on Zimbabwe as part of its regime change agenda.
“So you are not surprised when the UK continues to pay this particular attention to Zimbabwe. Their paying attention to Zimbabwe is not because they are interested in the future of Zimbabwe, but because they are interested in the welfare of their kith and kin. That’s what drove the British policy in Zimbabwe,” he said during a talk show with a South African radio station on Thursday night.
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The former South African president insisted that the stance South Africa took on Zimbabwe at the time was to allow the country to solve its own problems.
“In the context of resolving the conflict there (in Zimbabwe), the view we took then which I would still hold on to today, it really is the responsibility of the people of Zimbabwe to determine their future, it’s the responsibility of the people of South Africa to determine our future,” said Cde Mbeki.
He said South Africa refused to be pressured to apply external force on Zimbabwe because they believed that domestic problems needed domestic solutions.
He dismissed claims that South Africa, which was assisted by Zimbabwe to get its independence, did not do much in terms of intervention after the inconclusive March 29, 2008 elections.
“They talk about things that cannot be compared. An apartheid South Africa is very different from an Independent Zimbabwe. You say you want to impose sanctions against apartheid, of course you can, of course you must but to resolve a problem among the Zimbabweans in independent Zimbabwe, our view was and remains, let the people of Zimbabwe get together and sort out this thing among themselves,” Cde Mbeki said.
“Particularly because, given among other things, all my experience tells me, an external solution that gets imposed on the people, when something goes wrong, the locals won’t take ownership of it, they will say this thing is not ours.
“To make an agreement stick and so on you have to get the owners of the problem to own the solution and that’s what we said to Zimbabwe. In the end they entered into negotiations which we facilitated and they concluded what we called the Global Political Agreement.”
Mr Mbeki said they insisted that the solutions on Zimbabwe on the time would not come from any other place but Zimbabwe by Zimbabweans much to the chagrin of Britain and her allies.
“The problem we had, the reason you have this funny argument that we resorted to quiet diplomacy, diplomacy is diplomacy, once you campaign on a platform it’s no longer diplomacy but a political campaign. For instance the reason the British joined that chorus is because they wanted regime change,” he said.
Explaining the British attention on Zimbabwe, Mr Mbeki said the country along with South Africa, Algeria and Kenya had the biggest white European settler populations in the content.
“You still had a significant number of white people in Zimbabwe after Independence.
“Part of the argument used by Margaret Thatcher, when she was against the imposition of sanctions against the (Ian) Smith regime, was that, ‘we have a lot of kith and kin in Zimbabwe. If we impose sanctions which actually work, you will then get a half of a million or a quarter of a million Zimbabweans or whatever emigrating to England and suddenly we will be landed with a large refugee population coming from Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia).’
“This was Margaret Thatcher’s argument. ‘And we don’t want to do that and therefore that is why we don’t want to impose sanctions.’
Continued Mr Mbeki, “It was the same argument when Smith declared that UDI in 1965. The Prime Minister of the UK at the time was Harold Wilson of the Labour party and again the Africans took the position that this was a rebellion against the British Crown and wherever you had a rebellion against the British crown, the British crown has responded in order to suppress rebellion and let that happen to Zimbabwe.
“The argument of the British government at the time was this is kith and kin.”