The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has not received a formal request for asylum from ousted Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, Parliament has heard.
Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers was addressing MPs on Wednesday following Mugabe’s historic resignation as president on Tuesday evening after 37 years in power.
Landers, however, dismissed social media rumours that Mugabe has or would request asylum in South Africa.
“At this point, there is no indication if he or anyone else has requested asylum. Until that happens the views on the matter are just that,” Landers said.
Landers also addressed the potential consequences for former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe’s assault case in the South Gauteng High Court, were her husband to receive asylum from Dirco.
“The case against the first lady stays on the court roll and will be independent.
Our courts are fiercely independent,” he continued.
“So granting asylum to (former) president Mugabe won’t lead to the judge taking the case off the roll. Our law does not work that way.”
Mugabe was ‘wrong’ on Mandela
Cope MP Mosiuoa Lekota asked Landers what the department’s stance was on Mugabe’s recent comments that former South African president Nelson Mandela had “sold out” in negotiations for a peaceful transition in South Africa.
“The statement by (former) president Robert Mugabe must be rejected with the contempt it deserves,” Landers answered.
“The honourable Lekota though accused Mr Mugabe of being a ‘foreigner’ when he made those comments.
“That is technically true, but then so are we; foreigners expressing our views about Zimbabwe and (former) president Robert Mugabe,” he said, adding that what South Africans were was “no different to what Robert Mugabe did”.
“I’m not saying he was right. He was wrong. But we must caution against talking as if Zimbabwe is a 10th province of South Africa.”
Landers said it was too early to determine if this would affect economic sanctions currently against Zimbabwe.
Member countries in structures from the United Nations down to the Southern African Development Community would have to wait and see what unfolds in the country in the coming weeks.
He also said South Africa’s relations with Zimbabwe remain intact. A “peaceful and stable” Zimbabwe was still in the best interests of South Africa.
‘No external forces should interfere’
Landers was in agreement with some MPs that the Zimbabwean people should plot the way forward themselves. South Africa’s role was to provide assistance as a neighbour.
“No external forces must interfere,” Landers said.
“We need to be mindful and wary of becoming big brother, like certain countries in other parts of the world. We shouldn’t fall into that trap.” He said South Africans should try and help Zimbabwe like “true neighbours”.
He joined in with MPs in commending the mature manner in which Zimbabwean citizens have been celebrating the outcome, and the lack of a desire for vengeance.
He cautioned though that the debated coup d’état or bloodless correction should not be seen as the norm.
“This intervention by the Zimbabwean defence force must be viewed as an exception, and not the norm that must be followed by others in future.”
He also rebuffed a suggestion by DA MP Stevens Mokgalapa that Zimbabwe’s elections should be fast-tracked. The date for Zimbabwe’s scheduled 2018 elections must be respected, and is an internal matter, he said.
Lastly, Landers said it was not the appropriate time for South Africa to try and play a mediating role in finding closure for the victims of the Matabeleland massacres in the 1980s.
“At the appropriate time, which is not now, perhaps then we should raise it with the Zimbabweans,” he said in response to the original question, again from Lekota.
“The pain won’t go away until the matter has been addressed,” he admitted. — News24