Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said President Jacob Zuma did not send her and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo to Zimbabwe last week in his capacity as South Africa’s president, but as the SADC (the Southern African Development Community) chairperson.
She said she was sent there to “take a quick look” at the situation in the country, as there had been reports of a coup.
“As you know, SADC and AU resolved ages ago that they will not accept any government that should be ushered in through unconstitutional means of removing a previous government.
“We went there because there were reports that President Robert Mugabe was under house arrest and because the army had taken over institutions such as the public broadcaster. We also went there because some ministers had been arrested, and there was fear that some of them had been killed.
“We went there to sort a meeting with government of Zimbabwe, and when we met President Mugabe, he decided to bring some of the ministers who were available at the time to talk to us but also invited the chief of the defence force, Constantino Chiwenga, to be part of that meeting. It was the first time they were meeting since his statement on Tuesday,” she told Talk Radio 702 on Tuesday.
Mapisa-Nqakula added Mugabe did not think there were any challenges in Zimbabwe, as he believed if there had been any, Zimbabweans would have raised them with him to find a solution.
She said he told them at the meeting that he did realise there might have been a problem, judging by the manner in which the army had been conducting itself at the time.
However, Chiwenga said the army was running an operation because of the way government was handling issues and how “some elements” of Zanu-PF were negatively influencing government.
“He said all they seek to do is to remove the inner circle that has a negative influence on President Mugabe,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the situation in Zimbabwe was “very confusing”, as it was also difficult to tell who was really in charge in the country.
“It’s a very confusing situation. If they are saying it’s not a military coup d’état, then what is it? It doesn’t look like Mugabe is still in charge at all, but Zimbabweans are a very proud nation, and they believe in their ability to resolve their own problems.
“One of the things Mugabe said was: ‘I’ve done everything for the army. I’ve given them land, and therefore I do not expect that when there are problems that they would take to the streets, but rather that they’d come to me and engage me.'”
When she was there, everything was “going well”, and it was normal as people were going to work.
“It was quiet, and there were no problems. President Mugabe was able to drive around, but some ministers had fled the country, while some took refuge in Mugabe’s house,” she said.