Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Picture: AFP PHOTO/JEKESAI NJIKIZANA
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Picture: AFP PHOTO/JEKESAI NJIKIZANA

Former ambassador Gerrit Olivier accuses SA of "bend[ing] over backwards to please and sustain [Zimbabwean President Robert] Mugabe" (SA plays cheerleader as neighbour Mugabe sets his own house on fire, November 1).

One of the many failures of SA’s engagements with Zimbabwe, according to Olivier, is International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s decision to grant diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe "at the drop of a hat".

In fact, the minister derived the power from legislation and sought to strike a delicate balance between competing interests in making a very difficult decision.

Olivier would like to see SA "disempower Mugabe and his clique" through a variety of ways that are "not too hard, not too soft", and include "support[ing] the many disaffected Zimbabweans everywhere".

The former ambassador should be reminded of a few things. Firstly, post-’94, SA’s foreign policy took a deliberate departure from the foreign policy of the government under which he served. No longer would Pretoria use its military might to bully its neighbours.

Out with hostility and intimidation; in with negotiation, peaceful resolution of  conflicts and respect for the sovereignty of other states.

Secondly, those who fought for SA’s democracy did not envisage that our country would be playing the big brother role Olivier appears to be calling for.

We cannot believe in the freedom of South African citizens to elect leaders of their choice and, at the same time, not want the same for citizens of other nations.

Anti-apartheid SA’s foremost international campaigner, Oliver Tambo, was instrumental in drafting the historic Declaration of the Organisation of African Unity ad hoc committee on Southern Africa on the question of SA, commonly known as the Harare Declaration, which was adopted in 1989.

The Harare Declaration is still relevant today. Among other things, it says: "The destabilisation by SA of all the countries of the region, whether through direct aggression, sponsorship of surrogates, economic subversion and other means, should end immediately."

The new SA cannot act against this  historic pledge.

Nelson KgweteDirector: media liaison, Department of International Relations and Co-operation

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