Thabo Mbeki says he did not ask for action to be taken against Zindzi Mandela

Former president Thabo Mbeki.
Image: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Alaister Russell

Former president Thabo Mbeki has moved to clarify that he did not say government must act against SA’s ambassador to Denmark, Zindzi Mandela, for her tweets on land reform.

“At no point did he call for any action to be taken against ambassador Mandela. This is borne out by everything the journalist quoted from [former] president Mbeki,” the Thabo Mbeki Foundation said in a statement on Monday evening.

Foundation spokesperson Siyabulela Gebe said the Sunday Tribune asked Mbeki on Saturday if he had read Mandela’s tweets.

Mbeki reportedly told the Sunday newspaper he wanted government to investigate whether Mandela’s tweets were consistent with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s message on land reform.

Gebe said: “His reply was that he had not read the tweet. [Former] president Mbeki, however, explained the discipline and culture of the diplomatic world in which, as representatives of the president of the republic and broadly the government, ambassadors and high commissioners represent official government policy, not their views and opinions.”

He added: “This is in part because the system of government, as indeed the fabric of foreign policy, would be seriously imperilled were officials to express their personal views as and when they see fit. This has absolutely nothing to do with ambassador Mandela’s views or her right to hold her views.”

On June 14, Mandela created a stir on social media after her “apartheid apologists” and “land thieves” tweets went viral.

Mandela was criticised for her potentially “divisive” comments. The DA and AfriForum asked government to recall Mandela, while the EFF defended her.

Meanwhile, Rapport reported on Sunday that Mandela’s term as ambassador expired at the end of June and she probably already knew she would not be considered for another term.

“That is why she was so reckless with her comments on Twitter last week,” a former ambassador, who was not named, told the Afrikaans Sunday newspaper.

International relations and cooperation minister Naledi Pandor confirmed to Rapport that Mandela’s term in Denmark would expire soon.

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