Sunday, July 31, 2016

‘No Hard Feelings With President’
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

South African President Jacob Zuma’s former international relations advisor, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, has opened up on her fallout with President Mugabe in 2013, saying the matter was resolved amicably and there are no hard feelings.

Speaking extensively on that episode for the first time, she told the Zimpapers television project in Johannesburg, South Africa last week that President Mugabe’s rebuke jerked her into reviewing her role in talks between Zanu-PF and the MDCs.

Ms Zulu — now South Africa’s Small Business Development Minister — says she got over the “heartbreak” after President Mugabe told fellow Sadc Heads of State and Government that he “loves her”.

She expressed admiration for the President, saying his expansive capacity, knowledge and memory put him in good stead to bequeath a rich heritage for younger Africans.

Ms Zulu encountered troubled waters when Zanu-PF adjudged her to have overstepped her mandate after she reportedly advocated postponement of the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections.

President Mugabe labelled her “some stupid idiotic woman” and “this little street woman”, and appealed to President Zuma to restrain her.

But at the Sadc Summit in August that year, warm relations were restored, with President Zuma jokingly demanding a “bride price” from Zimbabwe, and President Mugabe reciprocating with a kiss on Ms Zulu’s cheek.

It was a merry occasion that made Ms Zulu smile even during last week’s interview.

She reminisced: “Oh, President Mugabe gave me a good hug and said, ‘You are young, you are growing and will grow up in the politics. These are things that will happen from time to time’.”

She went on, “It was quite painful for me to hear that being said (by President Mugabe). It was quite painful, especially because I’m African and I come from a culture of respect where elders are respected.

“Elders need to be respected. Even when you don’t agree (with them), there is always a way of dealing with that disagreement. That’s why I never wanted it to be (like) I’m being pushed onto a platform of tit-for-tat.

“I also had to ask myself the question: Where is it that I have fallen short and said something that might have ended up upsetting the President?

‘‘Or some people misunderstood what I might have said and that ended up with him saying the things he said?

“What was very important, though, was that in the end, it was President Robert Mugabe himself who spoke to me. I was with (President Zuma) and President Mugabe indicated to me that in the heat of the moment and when people are campaigning, things like that happen.

“For me, that was an experience; it was a pain when those things were being said. (But) somewhere down the line, the truth would be put on the table and this would be laid to rest. Now, I guarantee you that that has been laid to rest.”

Minister Zulu said she was pleased President Zuma’s facilitation helped Zimbabwe overcome political challenges, but regretted that the team failed to have Western economic sanctions on the country lifted.

Regarding President Mugabe, she said, “To be honest, I’m just amazed at a person who has such capacity, knowledge and memory. Because you go to a space and the media say, ‘Ah, no, what are you talking about? The man is forgetting and the man is this (and that).’

“What I experienced of President Robert Mugabe — the first time in his office when he was taking us through the history of the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe and where we were — was quite amazing.

“There were a lot of lessons for me. I came out really feeling (that) there is a wealth of knowledge that sits in there.”

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