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SAfrica’s ANC offers election help to Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has offered to help President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF win the next elections in neighbouring Zimbabwe, press reports said Sunday.

“We are willing to assist in coming up with election messages and strategies that would deliver victory,” ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told ZANU-PF’s annual congress Saturday in Zimbabwe’s second city Bulawayo, The Sunday Times reported.

“It is important for ZANU-PF to regain lost ground and continue to represent the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe,” he was quoted as saying.

Observers voiced surprise at the offer, since Mantashe has frequently criticised the autocratic rule of President Robert Mugabe, 87, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

They expect it to wrong-foot South African President Jacob Zuma — who is both ANC president and the regional Southern African Development Community’s mediator for Zimbabwe, where ZANU-PF is in a conflictual unity government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

“These are government-to-government relations, and Zuma is working under the auspices of SADC, (while the) ANC is a different animal altogether,” Mantashe said, according to the online newspaper The Zimbabwean. “(The) ANC must interact with some of the sister parties in the region.”

He added: “The ANC wishes to affirm her commitment to being a good and trustworthy neighbour to a fellow liberation movement (against white minority rule).”

“We will send campaign strategy teams to work with you; this will be the best way to celebrate the centenary of the ANC in January 2012,” he said.

At Saturday’s rally, Mugabe called on his supporters to unite behind him to win elections which he would like to see held next year.