Mugabe courts SA as a peace-keeper: Mandela and De Klerk charm Pretoria's former foes

PRESIDENT F W de Klerk, a senior member of the cabinet seven years ago when South Africa bombed Botswana and Zimbabwe, met the two countries' presidents yesterday in the company of his government's one-time prisoner, Nelson Mandela.

It was the first time that South Africa's Nobel Peace Prize duo had jointly represented their country's interests abroad.

The purpose was to formalise South Africa's transformation from regional war-monger to regional peace-keeper, from malevolent giant to friendly neighbourhood superpower.

Suddenly the term 'Frontline States' seemed as inappropriate to describe South Africa's neighbours as 'Communist Bloc' was to characterise Eastern Europe.

The meeting was in Gaborone, capital of Botswana, at the behest of the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, once the harshest critic of the regime Mr de Klerk has served as an MP for 21 years. President Mugabe wanted to find a common solution to the crisis in Lesotho, a tiny country within South Africa's borders whose stability is threatened by a military revolt.

A proposal by President Mugabe suggested that a regional military force, to include the South African Defence Force, should be sent to Lesotho as a symbolic statement of support for the democratically-elected government. Messrs de Klerk and Mandela evidently judged that such an action would be a trifle premature, for it was decided instead to appoint a joint task force to address the Lesotho crisis.

That President Mugabe should have contemplated such a proposal offered a dramatic indication of the way international perceptions of South Africa have changed in the four years since Mr Mandela's release from prison.

At a press conference in the office of Botswana's President Quett Masire, Mr Mugabe described his first meeting with Mr de Klerk - sitting beside him with Mr Mandela - as an 'historic, happy occasion'.

The Zimbabwean President said it was unfortunate it had taken so long for people to change their minds about apartheid, but he praised Mr de Klerk for the role he had played in bringing about reform. 'It is possible to open themselves up to the rest of the world and the rest of the world to open itself up to South Africa and that is what has happened now,' Mr Mugabe said.

As if to reinforce the point, Mr Mugabe gave his blessing to a remarkable regional peace- keeping conference yesterday in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. Every organisation that has been at war in Southern Africa over the past 10 years was represented: senior officers of the South African police and army; members of the African National Congress and their more radical liberation cousins, the Pan-Africanist Congress; Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party; the Mozambican army and the Renamo rebels; and the government of Namibia.

Among the 70 international participants was a representative from Britain now serving in the Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa, Chief Superintendent Peter Stevens of Scotland Yard.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine