Shut your advisor up, Mugabe asks Zuma

President Robert Mugabe at an election campaign rally in Chinhoyi in Mashonaland West, on July 18, 2013. PHOTO | AFP 

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has made an impassioned plea to his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma to silence a diplomat who has been vocal about the chaotic preparations for the country’s July 31 elections.

President Mugabe told a campaign rally Saturday that President Zuma must emulate his predecessor Thabo Mbeki who never criticised Zimbabwe in public during his tenure as a facilitator in talks between the country’s three major political parties.

The 89-year-old leader was angered by President Zuma’s international affairs advisor Lindiwe Zulu’s remarks last week that Zimbabwe’s election preparations were in disarray.

“May South Africa stop its negative voice; I appeal to Zuma to stop this woman from speaking on Zimbabwe,” President Mugabe said.

“We were given one facilitator with one mouth and that is President Zuma himself; that’s the voice, the only voice we want to hear.

“Yesterday, it was Thabo Mbeki who was facilitator and only his voice spoke, no other voice spoke.”

At the launch of his Zanu-PF party’s election manifesto a fortnight ago, President Mugabe described Ms Zulu as a loud mouthed street woman.

President Zuma is the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator on Zimbabwe and he has been pushing an election roadmap for the country that was rejected by Zanu-PF.

Constitutional Court

President Mugabe has been criticised for unilaterally calling for elections on July 31 before his coalition government could implement electoral, security and media reforms.

He also ignored SADC advice to delay the elections by at least two weeks.

But the veteran ruler who is eyeing another five-year term in office on Saturday said he had no choice but comply with a Constitutional Court judgement that polls be held before the end of July.

“I could have declared July 1 or 2 or 15, but I chose the last day of the month so that we could prepare for elections, but they still say they wanted more time,” President Mugabe said.

“What did you want me to do? I could have been arrested.”

Meanwhile, SADC leaders who met in South Africa on Saturday predicted that organising Zimbabwe’s elections would be tough.

“We would have wished that our advice would have been heeded,” Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete told journalists.

He said organising an election within a month “was quite a mammoth task.”

“That’s why we are seeing even the incidents of the early voters, where half of them couldn’t vote, partly because of the brevity of time.”

A special voting exercise for security forces and civil servants who will be on duty during the elections was marred by chaos and allegations of rigging.

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