The Sunday Mail
President Mugabe has provided Africa with “keen leadership” and the continent has much to learn from him, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has said.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail ahead of President Mugabe’s 92nd birthday, President Zuma spoke of his Zimbabwean counterpart as a “very astute” and “clear thinker”.
President Mugabe, who was Sadc Chair from August 2014 to August 2015 and African Union Chair from January 2015 to January 2016, turns 92 today.
President Zuma said, “As Chair of both Sadc and the African Union, President Mugabe’s tenure came at a difficult time when Africa was faced with a number of challenges.
“Among others, he led initiatives and processes aimed at regional peace and security as well as economic development and integration for the entire African continent.
“President Mugabe executed his responsibilities very well with dignity and honour. He proved himself to be an elder statesman and provided keen leadership at all times in both the AU and Sadc.
“His intervention to promote industrialisation within Sadc has been warmly welcomed by all of us as a step in the right direction.”
President Zuma said under President Mugabe’s leadership, the AU Peace and Security Council focused on resolving crises in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, the Sahel region and West Africa.
He went on: “(President Mugabe’s) vast knowledge, experience and involvement in politics in Africa and the world at large makes him resourceful.
“There is so much to learn from him and the leaders of his generation who stood up, risked their own lives, defeated colonialism and contributed to the liberation of the region and Africa.
“President Mugabe is like a walking encyclopaedia and historical archive for our region and continent. I have had a lot of memorable moments with him as current President of the Republic of South Africa . . .
“Generally, some of the memorable moments occur when President Mugabe speaks in public. He is always able to articulate the position of the previously colonialised masses eloquently and with unmatched vigour.
“His term as African Union Chairperson has been one of the key milestones. He reminded the leadership of the continent and the African peoples what colonialism was all about and the legacy that we are working to reverse decades later – of inequality and poverty.
“It is easy to forget this, so his contribution has helped to remind us what Africa went through, what Africa has done to liberate herself and what else must be done to undo the damage.
“His final address as the Chairperson of the AU last month captured our views, that we mean business when we say the United Nations, especially the UN Security Council, must be representative of other regions, especially Africa. It was a very important intervention at this point in our history and it was well articulated, too.”
President Zuma said the two leaders “enjoyed a good working relationship since South Africa’s liberation”.
“We regard him as an elder statesman in our region and continent who is always ready to provide guidance and leadership when called upon to do so.
“I can define my relationship with President Mugabe as being fraternal, brotherly, comradely and of extreme importance to both South Africa and Zimbabwe, the region and Africa as a whole.”
He said South Africa looked forward to hosting President Mugabe at Fort Hare, his alma mater, when the institution marks its centenary on May 20, 2016 describing the Zimbabwean leader’s presence there as “quite an honour”.