Guy Scott. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Zambia’s Vice-President Guy Scott says South Africans are backward in their historical development. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

THE South African government says it will summon Zambia’s high commissioner to "explain" candid criticism directed at President Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s foreign policies and South Africans in general, by Zambian Vice-President Guy Scott in a recent interview.

In a wide-ranging interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, Mr Scott compared Mr Zuma to South Africa’s last apartheid president, FW de Klerk, while praising Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. He also referred to South Africans as "backward".

"He’s very much like De Klerk. He (Mr Zuma) tells us, ‘You just leave Zimbabwe to me.’ Excuse me, who the hell liberated you anyway, was it not us? I mean, I quite like him, he seems a rather genial character but I pity him and his advisers". He also criticised South Africans as "very backward" in terms of historical development. The Guardian confirmed the authenticity of the remarks.

This is not the first time Mr Scott has spoken as frankly about South Africa’s foreign policy. In an interview with Business Day last month, he criticised the clearance process for yellow fever at South African airports for visitors from other African countries.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said on Thursday the department would seek a response from Zambia via diplomatic channels. "The South African government has noted these negative remarks attributed to the vice-president of Zambia, Mr Scott," he said.

"We as the department will take this up through diplomatic process and accordingly will summon the Zambian High Commission to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation to explain the remarks, confirm if they are true and resolve what it means for South Africa and Zambia’s bilateral relationship," he said.

The Zambian High Commission on Thursday tried to soften the blow of Mr Scott’s comments, saying that the vice-president was on leave and could not address the matter directly.

"We wish to state that Zambia and South Africa enjoy very warm relations on a people-to-people basis.

"The strong relations also extend to the highest offices in both countries where the President of Zambia His Excellency Michael Chilufya Sata enjoys very warm and fraternal relations with South Africa’s President His Excellency Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma."

According to the Guardian report, Mr Scott claimed Mr Mugabe wants to quit office after elections, due this year.

Mr Scott said Mr Mugabe had told him a few months ago that he wanted to step down.

"I think if you asked him (Mr Mugabe) he’d say it was enough. That’s what he said to us a few months ago.

"I said to him the way forward in African democracy is the way we do it in Zambia, to which he said, ‘I absolutely agree, I wish it would happen to me’."

Zanu (PF) spokesman Rugare Gumbo said Mr Scott was entitled to his own opinions and that Mr Mugabe remained the party’s candidate in the next elections.