Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe used his official visit to South Africa on Tuesday to thank the country for giving Zimbabwean nationals employment opportunities, South Africa’s privately owned EWN news site reports.
“Here is where many of our people have found incomes through employment,” he said in his speech.
Zimbabwe has been facing an economic crisis for years, leading to the collapse of its currency in 2009.
Mr Mugabe admitted that some Zimbabweans were in South Africa illegally, and others did bad things.
“The good and the bad… we have given you the trouble to sort out,” Mr Mugabe said, adding: “Others don’t mean well and need to be punished or sent back.”
Mr Mugabe’s praise for South Africa came after he annoyed the secretary-general of the governing African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe, for criticising the legacy of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
Mr Mugabe was quoted as saying that the late Mr Mandela cherished his personal freedom more than anything else and left “whites with everything”.
Mr Mantashe hit back, saying Mr Mugabe had destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy, and should be grateful that South Africa had given jobs to millions of Zimbabweans.
On Tuesday, Mr Mugabe urged the ANC not to render itself into “nothingness” – a reference to the divisions which have hit the party ahead of its conference in December, when it will elect a sucessor to Mr Zuma.
“I don’t know what we would be if all that future is rendered into nothingness, torn apart,” Mr Mugabe said.
“We wish [the] ANC every success at the congress, so that it can continue into the future renewed and strengthened,” he added.