Yesterday President Zuma announced a new three-person Facilitation Team to work on the Zimbabwean process. Three big names have been brought in: Charles Nqakula, Zuma’s senior Political Advisor; Lindiwe Zulu, International Relations Advisor; and Special Envoy Mac Maharaj.
Zulu is a career diplomat and a former spokeswoman for the South African presidency. She is professional and measured and, above all, a listener, who has won respect in all her foreign postings (most recently as Ambassador to Brazil). I have met her and believe her to be very sharp.
Both Nqakula and Maharaj gave most of their lives to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and their credentials – and integrity – cannot be doubted. Though a former minister under Mbeki, Nqakula was respected enough by Zuma to be given the role of his main Political Advisor. The fact that he is leading a Facilitation Team of real party heavy-weights underlines the enormous importance of the Zimbabwe issue to the South African President.
The announcement is good news. It signals South Africa’s genuine commitment to resolving the problems in our country. To have serious negotiators on this team shows that South Africa means business and that the problems in Zimbabwe will take a lot of tough talking to resolve. They will be prepared to bang heads together.
The appointment of Maharaj is an especially big move. “Mac” is seriously hardcore and does not suffer fools. He was repeatedly tortured by the Apartheid police (including having his genitals hit with a truncheon) before spending time on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. He then ran the ANC military organisation in South Africa and was a leading member of the ANC negotiating team with the Apartheid government of De Klerk. He is a communist, and a valued comrade of Zimbabwe – who, like most of his colleagues in the ANC, watched in admiration as Mugabe led the resistance movement north of the Limpopo River. ZANU (PF) cannot afford to alienate these fellow champions of the liberation movement. If we cannot find a way to work with them, all is lost for the party.
ZANU (PF) and the ANC have enjoyed a long history together. Both parties have helped each other in their quest for liberation. We should respect what Zuma is trying to achieve. He has Zimbabwe’s best interests at heart but it is also in his own interests to see Zimbabwe restored to health. Problems in Zimbabwe spill over into South Africa, there are millions of Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa and if Zuma helps to solve the political deadlock, he will win praise from many people around the world.