Former President Thabo Mbeki has defended his claim that the late Robert Mugabe postponed Zimbabwe’s land reform process to facilitate South Africa’s negotiations to end apartheid.
Mbeki made the claim during an African National Congress (ANC) memorial service for the late Zimbabwean president in Durban on 17 September.
He said, “The land reform process was delayed in Zimbabwe for at least a decade. It was done in order for us to complete our negotiations.”
However, Mbeki came under criticism from some commentators for his comments.
In an opinion piece over the weekend, City Press Editor-in-Chief Mondli Makhanya slammed Mbeki’s claim as “the biggest lie.”
Makhanya suggested that the ex-president made the comment “to justify his ineffectual ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach to the Zimbabwean crisis.”
Mbeki defends claim
However, Mbeki hit back at Makhanya via the Thabo Mbeki Foundation Facebook page on Wednesday.
The Foundation published a 2011 news article by The Independent, a privately owned publication in Zimbabwe.
The article quoted former Commonwealth Secretary-General Emeka Anyaoku, who confirmed approaching Mugabe in 1990 about the land reform matter.
My diplomatic mission was to warn Mugabe not to touch the land when the Lancaster House Constitution’s protection of white farmers’ ended.
The end coincided with the beginning of negotiations to end Apartheid in South Africa. I told Mugabe that taking over white farms would scupper what (FW) de Klerk was trying to achieve.
South Africa’s white community was very powerful. Taking over white property in Zimbabwe would alarm white South Africans. Fearing for their material and financial assets, they would use their influence to scupper the negotiations.Ex-Commonwealth Secretary-General Emeka Anyaoku
According to Anyaoku, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party agreed to postpone taking over white farms.
Zimbabwe only began its radical land reform programme in 2000, just a year after the five-year transitional period in South Africa.