UK, US wanted to remove Mugabe by force – Mbeki

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe

The US and UK so badly wanted President Robert Mugabe removed that South Africa had to send government minister Lindiwe Sisulu to tell them to back off, former president Thabo Mbeki said in his latest letter.

“There were others in the world, led particularly by the UK, who opposed our approach of encouraging the Zimbabweans to decide their future. These preferred regime change – the forcible removal of President Mugabe and his replacement by people approved by the UK and its allies,” wrote Mbeki.

“In the period preceding the 2002 Zimbabwe Elections, the UK and the US in particular were very keen to effect this regime change and failing which to impose various conditions to shorten the period of any Mugabe Presidency.

“Our then Minister of Intelligence, Lindiwe Sisulu, had to make a number of trips to London and Washington to engage the UK and US governments on their plans for Zimbabwe, with strict instructions from our government to resist all plans to impose anything on the people of Zimbabwe, including by military means.”

Mbeki said the plans to overthrow Mugabe were not hearsay, but came “directly from what they communicated to a representative of our government”.

The startling revelations go on to say that on November 11, 2007, the UK’s Independent on Sunday reported that during its interview of Lord Guthrie, former Chief of Defence Staff of the UK armed forces, it learnt that “astonishingly, the subjects discussed [with Prime Minister Tony Blair] included invading Zimbabwe”. Guthrie had reportedly warned against it.

According to John Kampfner in his book Blair’s Wars, the former British prime minister once told Claire Short that “if it were down to me, I’d do Zimbabwe as well – that is send troops”.

Mbeki said that over the years Zapu, Zanu and, later, Zanu-PF saw it as part of their responsibility to contribute to the victory of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid and to rebuild the country. The ANC felt the same about removing colonialism in Zimbabwe and helping reconstruct that country.

“Throughout these years we defended the right of the people of Zimbabwe to determine their destiny, including deciding on who should govern the country. This included resisting all efforts to impose other people’s solutions on Zimbabwe, which, if this had succeeded, would have served as a precursor for a similar intervention in our country!”

Mbeki concluded by saying there was a conscious decision taken to avoid South Africa acting as the “new home-grown African imperial power”

When he was president, Mbeki rarely took the nation or the media into his confidence on some of the details in his letters. He was regularly heavily criticised over South Africa’s siding with Mugabe, whose land reforms were considered repugnant by many. Mbeki was also criticised for appearing to turn a blind eye to allegations of voting irregularities.