/ 30 May 2008

DA says Mbeki must release letter he sent to Bush

President Thabo Mbeki must release the letter he allegedly wrote to George Bush asking the American president to ”butt out” of Zimbabwe, the Democratic Alliance said on Thursday.

DA spokesperson on foreign affairs Tony Leon wrote to Mbeki asking him to publicly release the letter which surfaced in an opinion piece in the Washington Post this week.

”I believe it is in the best interests of South Africa’s battered international image and the restoration of our president’s position as an impartial mediator in Zimbabwe that he both release the letter and elaborate on its contents and intentions and context,” he said in a statement.

Leon said he would also submit parliamentary questions about the letter.

The opinion piece, written by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post describes South Africa as a ”rogue democracy”.

Gerson wrote that Mbeki’s four-page letter to Bush criticised the United States for taking sides against Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.

The author quoted an American official as saying that Mbeki told Bush to ”butt out, that Africa belongs to him [Mbeki]”.

Gerson also accused South Africa, along with China and Russia, of making ”the United Nations impotent.

”Whatever the reasons, South Africa increasingly requires a new foreign policy category: the rogue democracy.

”Along with Saudi Arabia and Sudan, it undermines the global human rights movement. South Africa remains an example of freedom — while devaluing and undermining the freedom of others. It is the product of a conscience it does not display.

”Zimbabwe is the most pressing case in point — reflecting a political argument within South Africa and a broader philosophical debate,” Gerson wrote.

The Star on Thursday reported that Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga charged he had no knowledge of the letter. However an official at the American Embassy confirmed it was sent to the White House and that a response was forthcoming. – Sapa