NEWS
22/11/2017 15:38 SAST | Updated 22/11/2017 15:58 SAST

No Formal Request For Asylum From Mugabe -- Dirco

Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers told MPs that Robert Mugabe has not requested asylum in South Africa following his resignation as Zimbabwe's president.

EFE

The department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) has not received a formal request for asylum from ousted Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, Parliament has heard.

Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers was addressing MPs on Wednesday, following Mugabe's historic resignation as president on Tuesday evening, after 37 years in power.

Landers, however, dismissed social media rumours that Mugabe has requested or would request asylum in South Africa.

"At this point, there is no indication if he or anyone else has requested asylum. Until that happens, the views on the matter are just that," Landers said.

Landers also addressed the potential consequences for Mugabe's wife Grace's assault case in the South Gauteng High Court, were her husband to receive asylum from Dirco.

"The case against the first lady stays on the court roll and will be independent. Our courts are fiercely independent," he continued. "So granting asylum to [former] president Mugabe won't lead to the judge taking the case off the roll. Our law does not work that way."

Read: Mnangagwa To Be Sworn In As Zimbabwe's President On Friday

Congress of the People MP Mosiuoa Lekota asked Landers what the department's stance was on Mugabe's recent comments that former South African president Nelson Mandela had "sold out" in negotiations for a peaceful transition in South Africa.

"The statement... must be rejected with the contempt it deserves," Landers answered. "The honourable Lekota, though, accused Mr Mugabe of being a 'foreigner' when he made those comments.

"That is technically true, but then so are we: foreigners expressing our views about Zimbabwe and [former] president Robert Mugabe." He claimed that what South Africans were doing was "no different to what Robert Mugabe did".

"I'm not saying he was right. He was wrong. But we must caution against talking as if Zimbabwe is a 10th province of South Africa."

Landers said it was too early to determine if this would affect the economic sanctions currently levelled against Zimbabwe.

Member countries in structures from the United Nations to the Southern African Development Community would have to wait and see what unfolds in the country in the coming weeks.

He also said South Africa's relations with Zimbabwe remain intact, and that a "peaceful and stable" Zimbabwe was still in the best interests of South Africa.

Also Read: Robert Mugabe: From Liberator To The Walking Dead

Landers was in agreement with some MPs that the Zimbabwean people should plot the way forward themselves. South Africa's role was to provide assistance as a neighbour.

"No external forces must interfere," Landers said. "We need to be mindful and wary of becoming Big Brother, like certain countries in other parts of the world. We shouldn't fall into that trap."

He said South Africans should try and help Zimbabwe like "true neighbours".

He joined MPs in commending the mature manner in which Zimbabwean citizens have been celebrating Mugabe's overthrow, and the lack of a desire for vengeance.

He cautioned, though, that the debated coup d'état, or "bloodless correction", should not be seen as the norm.

"This intervention by the Zimbabwean Defence Force must be viewed as an exception, and not the norm that must be followed by others in future."

He also rebuffed a suggestion by DA MP Stevens Mokgalapa that Zimbabwe's elections should be fast-tracked. The date for Zimbabwe's scheduled 2018 elections must be respected, he said, as they are an internal matter.

Lastly, Landers said it was not the appropriate time for South Africa to try to play a mediating role in assisting the victims of the Matabeleland massacres in the 1980s to find closure.

"At the appropriate time, which is not now, perhaps then we should raise it with the Zimbabweans," he said, in response to another question from Lekota.

"The pain won't go away until the matter has been addressed," he admitted.