ZANU PF’s spin doctor, Jonathan Moyo, is once again causing strain on the already tense relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe, after another written attack on President Jacob Zuma.

Moyo once used the state media this week to trash Zuma’s ongoing mediation efforts, stipulated by regional leaders as the key to solving Zimbabwe’s political crisis. Moyo said these efforts “created a treacherous opportunity for weakening the state in Zimbabwe by rendering it vulnerable to hostile foreign interests.”

He accused Zuma and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) of being puppets of Western states like the UK and the US, which he accused of “hostile manipulation.” He also slammed ongoing negotiations towards a SADC endorsed election roadmap, as pointless and a guise for the “destabilisation of the state.”

“These puppets and their masters will not be allowed to reform something they did not form using the cover of the negotiations under misplaced SADC facilitation which the UK government apparently wants to use to dictate regime change in the country,” Moyo said.

South Africa has since dismissed Moyo’s latest rant, which also argued for fresh elections in Zimbabwe this year. Zuma’s International Relations Advisor, Lindiwe Zulu, is quoted as saying that neither SADC nor South Africa had time for “people who are outside the negotiation ambit.” “We have said it before that we will not comment on opinions of people who are not part and parcel of the negotiation process,” Zulu said.

Zuma has for weeks been the target of ZANU PF’s anger, following the surprisingly stern rebuke by the SADC Troika in March, which cornered Mugabe over his refusal to fully implement the Global Political Agreement. The Troika later issued a statement demanding an immediate end to violence, intimidation, hate speech and harassment, and pledged to develop a roadmap towards credible elections.

It’s widely understood that it was a scathing report by Zuma on the state of Zimbabwe’s political crisis that spurred SADC to change its tone towards the situation. Zuma reportedly had harsh warnings about the political stalemate, saying that “unprecedented upheavals,” seen in North Africa recently, would happen in Zimbabwe if there weren’t major reforms.

A furious Mugabe then accused SADC of trying to interfere in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs. He claimed Zuma was just a facilitator to the dialogue and “cannot prescribe anything,” while saying that SADC has no business ‘meddling’ in Zimbabwe’s affairs. The state owned Sunday Mail newspaper then took its cue from Mugabe and published an editorial branding Zuma ‘erratic’ and ‘disaster-prone’ They described him as a “liability, not only to South Africa, but also to the rest of the continent.”

Moyo also followed Mugabe’s lead, writing in an opinion piece published in the same paper, that “Zuma is now tainted beyond recovery by the Libyan situation”, after his country voted on the UN Security Council in favour of imposing a no-fly zone.

ZANU PF was then forced to backtrack on this criticism, apparently worried about being isolated in the region. Moyo was last month summoned by Mugabe’s deputy Joice Mujuru and sharply reprimanded for his opinion piece that blasted Zuma. Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba, was also tasked with making amends, taking out a full page supplement in the state owned Herald newspaper, claiming the views of the Sunday Mail editorial did not reflect the views of the government.

Moyo’s fresh attack is now believed to be a sign of ZANU PF’s growing concern that SADC will follow through on its apparent change in stance towards the Zimbabwe situation, and stop appeasing Mugabe at every turn. ZANU PF has never needed to criticise SADC before, because the bloc’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ towards Zimbabwe has always suited the party very well.

Commentators have said that the comments by Moyo, which will have been sanctioned by ZANU PF, are indicative that the party is very worried.

Other commentators meanwhile have questioned if these attempts to undermine Zuma could be related to an alleged plot in South Africa to oust the President from his position. Billy Masethla, a top official in South Africa’s ruling ANC party, last week said the plot is real. He told the Mail & Guardian newspaper: “I know who they are talking to and how they want to do this. I am not going to keep quiet and watch people destroying the organisation.”

Some commentators have said that ZANU PF might be preempting the results of this ‘plot’ by cutting ties with Zuma, while remaining on good terms with the ANC. The two parties are traditionally supportive of each other as former liberation parties, and the ANC has, on more than one occasion, voiced support and respect for Mugabe.

But exiled Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta, who is now based in South Africa, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that there is very little support for the alleged plot, saying “Zuma is very strong in his position.” He also insisted that the ANC would not risk jeopardising its position in the Southern African region by throwing in its lot with a party like ZANU PF, which is increasingly isolated.

“They wouldn’t want to be associated with a discredited, anarchistic, destructive regime that no longer even has the support of the region,” Peta said. Peta meanwhile welcomed Moyo’s vitriolic attack on Zuma and SADC, saying: “These sentiments reflect the whole party and it continues to push them further out of favour with SADC. This is what campaigners for real change in Zimbabwe have wanted to see for a long time.”

(Source)