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Curiouser and curiouser …

Curious report just out on Reuters:

Johannesburg (Reuters) — South Africa has denied it blamed Britain for Zimbabwe’s isolation in a report prepared for a regional summit earlier this month.

The office of President Thabo Mbeki denied that the government produced a report on Zimbabwe critical of Britain before Mbeki briefed leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on his mediation efforts in mid-August.

“The Presidency wishes to make it clear that it is not aware of such a report and that if it exists, it was not authored by the government of the Republic of South Africa,” it said.

“Government once again categorically rejects the allegation that President Mbeki had blamed the British government for the problems in Zimbabwe. This is simply not true,” the statement added.

The report, obtained by Reuters and other media ahead of the summit, blamed Zimbabwe’s former colonial power Britain for Harare’s isolation by the West and said London was trying to undermine talks between President Robert Mugabe’s government and the opposition.

(Read the full Reuters report here.)

The government statement quoted by Reuters, as those who read my post of August 22 will know, was issued fully two weeks ago. Reuters ignored it then, as did other media that fell for the “leaked report” story, such as the Guardian. Why publish it now?

The Guardian, incidentally, is still ignoring the government’s denial. The newspaper’s reader’s editor (or ombud, if you prefer) sent me a long and detailed response after I queried its handling of the story. But it still hasn’t corrected the record.


  • Robert Brand

    Robert Brand teaches media law, ethics and economics journalism at Rhodes University. Before joining academia, he worked as a journalist for the Pretoria News, the Star and Bloomberg News.