, HARARE, Apr 6 – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe distanced himself Wednesday from state media\’s blistering comments on South African President Jacob Zuma, in a bid to end a diplomatic spat between the neighbours.
Last week, the government mouthpiece Sunday Mail published an editorial calling Zuma "erratic" and "disaster-prone", and criticised his tough stance on Zimbabwe and his support for the no-fly zone in Libya.
"A lot of dire reading has been made out of this week\’s Sunday Mail editorial comment and an opinion piece it carried on the same matter," Mugabe\’s spokesman George Charamba said in full-page statement printed in the state-run Herald newspaper.
"The opinion of the Sunday Mail has been conflated with the opinion of the government of Zimbabwe," he said.
Charamba said his statement reflected "views and concerns of the government of Zimbabwe and puts this needless conflation to rest".
Mugabe himself lashed out Friday at the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, after Zuma and other leaders at a security summit slapped him on the wrist over escalating political violence ahead of elections expected later this year.
"We are a sovereign country. Even our neighbours cannot dictate to us. We will resist that," Mugabe said.
The Sunday Mail went further, with a personal assault on Zuma. The paper described him as a "liability, not only to South Africa, but also to the rest of the continent".
An accompanying opinion piece said "President Zuma is now tainted beyond recovery by the Libyan situation" after South Africa voted on the UN Security Council in favour of imposing a no-fly zone.
Zuma\’s office issued a lengthy reply to the criticism, saying if Zimbabwe wanted to understand its position on Libya they should contact the South African government through the normal channels.