South African President Jacob Zuma urged the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe if progress was to be made in resolving that country’s political crisis.
He also said that it was not the policy of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress to nationalise the mining sector, as had been demanded by the head of the ANC’s youth league.
The question of nationalisation could be discussed, but it would need to be introduced into the ANC’s policy-making process before any decision could be reached.
The nationalisation issue has caused concern among investors in South Africa, the world’s biggest platinum producer and the third largest producer of gold.
Speaking to reporters at the start of a state visit to Britain, Zuma was also asked about sanctions on Zimbabwe.
“If they could lift sanctions, that would give Zimbabwe an opportunity to move forward,” he said.
He disagreed with the view expressed from outside Zimbabwe that more pressure in the form of sanctions was the way forward.
He said the Southern African Development Community, a regional body that has been dealing with Zimbabwe, had suggested that if sanctions were lifted they could be reimposed if progress was made by a certain date.
He would be raising the question of how to make progress in Zimbabwe during his talks this week with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Zuma said it would be difficult for Zimbabwe to deal with outstanding obstacles to a political resolution while sanctions were still in place.
President Robert Mugabe and his old foe Morgan Tsvangirai formed a unity government in Zimbabwe last year, but remain deadlocked on issues such as the appointment of a new governor of the central bank and an attorney-general. The trial of one of Tsvangirai’s political allies for treason is also an issue.
About three million Zimbabweans have fled to neighbouring South Africa as the economy has collapsed at home.
South African officials have said the refugees are placing the country’s basic services under severe strain. South Africa would therefore like to see relations improve between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Asked about demands from ANC Youth League head Julius Malema that South Africa’s crucial mining sector should be taken into public ownership, Zuma said: “We are not nationalising. That is not the policy of the ANC.”
Nationalisation could be discussed, but the idea had not been introduced into the ANC’s policy-making process, he said.
Malema had raised the issue of nationalisation for debate and that in South Africa “anyone has a right to raise his views”.
“People tended to think that because the matter has been raised it is now policy. It is actually not. We are very clear on the matter,” Zuma said.
“We have never taken a position of nationalisation,” he said.
“If Mr Malema feels very strongly that the matter should be discussed, we will certainly do so and the matter will be discussed. You will certainly know the ANC viewpoint at the end.”
Pic: President Jacob Zuma (R) and Robert Mugabe (L)