28/07/2005 19:00 - (SA)
Johannesburg - The Zimbabwe government delayed its land-reform programme so that negotiations for South Africa's liberation succeeded, said President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday.
"They slowed down to get the negotiations in this country to succeed," said Mbeki as he arrived at the land summit without prior notification.
He said that when South Africa was negotiating its transition to democracy, around the time which Zimbabwe had started its land reform programme, the Organisation of African Unity had asked Zimbabwe to stop the programme as it would "frighten the apartheid government in South Africa".
To suggest that Zimbabwe's land-reform programme was marred by corruption was actually wrong, Mbeki said to loud applause from delegates.
Mbeki surprised delegates when he arrived at the land summit at Johannesburg's Nasrec Expo Centre without a hint that he would attend.
"Welcome comrade president," said Blade Nzimande, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party, who was chairing a session when Mbeki arrived.
"You are really welcome to join the summit. It's a very pleasant surprise," Nzimande said as photographers jostled to take Mbeki's picture.
As Mbeki entered the conference hall just after 17:00 delegates burst into song.