Johannesburg, Jan. 19 (Reuters): South Africa said today it had accepted a reassurance from Zimbabwe that vitriolic remarks made by a minister were not intended as a slur on South Africa’s President or people.
Diplomatic relations between South Africa and its northern neighbour Zimbabwe took a knock this week after Zimbabwe information minister Jonathan Moyo reportedly called South Africans “filthy” and “uncouth”.
Foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said South Africa had requested an explanation for the comments attributed to Moyo — a highly formal step that suggested the countries’ previously cordial relationship was under threat.
The diplomatic hiccup emerged just months before South Africa meets Australia and Nigeria to decide whether to readmit Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth. It was suspended last year after allegations that its presidential election had been rigged.
“We have noted and accepted the reassurance in as far as it relates to President Mbeki, the government and the people of South Africa,” Mamoepa said.
Moyo’s furious tirade, reported in Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper, took place after South Africa’s Sunday Times last week published an expose after following the minister on what it called an extravagant spending spree in South Africa.