Takunda Maodza Assistant News Editor
SOUTH Africa was under pressure from the Labour regime of British premier Tony Blair to co-operate in a military invasion of Zimbabwe to depose President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, but Pretoria refused, former South African president Cde Thabo Mbeki has revealed.Cde Mbeki made the revelations in an interview with Aljazeera on Saturday, saying the British wanted to replace President Mugabe with their cat’s paw, MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, who is on record pledging to violently unseat President Mugabe.
The three main British political parties – Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats – mooted the MDC under the ambit of the Westminster Foundation, and have been sponsoring the party since its launch on September 11 1999 in a bid to effect regime change in Zimbabwe, but the move has failed with Zanu-PF’s resounding victory in the harmonised elections touted by executive director of the Royal African Society Richard Dowden as the heaviest defeat for Britain’s Africa policy in 60 years.
Speaking on the programme “Talk to Al Jazeera”, Cde Mbeki said: “There is a retired chief of the British Armed Forces (Lord Charles Guthrie) who said he had to withstand pressure from then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair who was saying to the chief of the British Armed Forces you must work out a military plan so that we can physically remove Robert Mugabe.
“We knew that because we had come under the same pressure that we needed to cooperate in some scheme. It was a regime change scheme, even to the point of using military force and we were saying no.”
Lord Charles Guthrie was quoted in some sections of the British media as saying he had warned the blundering Blair that it would be suicidal to pit British troops against ‘‘the tried and tested veterans of the Congo,” in apparent reference to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ exploits during Operation Sovereign Legitimacy in the DRC that helped repel US-backed Ugandan and Rwandan rebels to usher peace that enabled the DRC to hold its first elections in 45 years.
Cde Mbeki, who facilitated inter-party talks that led to the formation of the now defunct inclusive Government made up of Zanu-PF and the MDC formations in 2008, took a swipe at the West for interfering in the domestic affairs of sovereign nations, particularly in Africa and the Middle East in a veiled bid to effect illegal regime change.
“Then we said no. You are coming from London you say you don’t like Robert Mugabe for whatever reason, people in London don’t like him we are going to remove him then you are going to put someone else in his place. Why does it become a British responsibility to decide who leads Zimbabwe?” he asked.
“We were saying no. Let Zimbabweans sit down. Let them agree what they do with their country. Our task is to make sure we stay with them. We work with them. So, the GPA they signed in 2008 was negotiated by the Zimbabweans. We facilitated. We chaired the meeting and so on, but it was them who negotiated the agreement.”
Cde Mbeki said the Syrian crisis and other similar global conflicts could only be resolved through negotiated settlements as opposed to the West’s regime change template.
He said the West believes that the Syrian crisis could only be resolved by removing the government of president Bashar al-Assad and warned such an approach was bound to fail.
“Let the Syrians get together,” said Mr Mbeki. “We will assist them to get to a solution which sorts out the Syrian thing, no different to a position we took with regards to Zimbabwe. Let Zimbabweans sort out their problem. Let Syrians do the same.”
Retired Lieutenant-General Mike Nyambuya described Tony Blair’s military ploy as naive.
“It just shows how naive the British are. Zimbabwe is a very unique country that has a crop of soldiers which is very seasoned, well trained and well experienced in fighting wars. Not only do we have people who participated in the liberation struggle, even after independence we fought in Mozambique and participated in peace operations in Somalia and the DRC, among other countries. We have shown that the country does not have a rag-tag army but a professional army that can stand up to anyone including the British. It could have been a miscalculation by the British,” he said.
Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association leader Cde Jabulani Sibanda said the British still habour those intentions even today and urged the nation to remain vigilant.
“What Mbeki is saying is true. What is happening in North Africa and the Middle East is the same strategy that they want to employ in southern Africa. The only difference is that the strategy has worked in the northern side of the equator judging by the history of coups in North Africa, on the southern side of the equator they have a problem with the strategy because most of the parties that are running governments are former liberation movements and they have been resisting such moves,” he said.
Cde Sibanda said Zimbabweans must remain on high alert politically and militarily as the enemy was not giving up on his intentions.
Political analyst and Midlands State University lecturer Mr Christopher Gwatidzo yesterday said Mr Mbeki must be applauded by all Zimbabweans for his Pan Africanist values and urged the country to remain vigilant as the West still habours intentions to effect illegal regime change.
“He is an example of a Pan Africanist. We must also awaken to reality, the Western world still habours regime change intentions and as we engage them through our foreign policy or through tourism or any other forum, we must always doubt their sincerity. We must not trust them. When on the table with them, we must use a long fork because anything is possible with them.”
University of Zimbabwe political scientist Dr Charity Manyeruke slammed the British government for trying to install a puppet regime in Zimbabwe.
“Behind the closed doors are big regime change agendas. We are Africans and even if you become friends with the British prime minister you will never become a British. We appreciate a lot of what Mr Mbeki has done.”