Blair, who had made a triumphant military intervention in Sierra Leone, was determined that Mugabe should step down whereas Mbeki was ready to accommodate him.
Mbeki made reference to a retired British general, thought to be Lord Guthrie, who was chief of the defence staff during the first Blair government. In an interview in 2007 Guthrie recalled that "people were always trying to get me to look at" toppling Mugabe by force, though he did not mention Blair by name.
Mbeki,said: "There is a retired chief of the British armed forces who said he had to withstand pressure from the then prime minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair ... Tony Blair who was saying to the chief of the British armed forces, 'You must work out a military plan so that we can physically remove Robert Mugabe'. We knew that because we had come under the same pressure that we need to cooperate in some scheme. It was a regime change scheme, even to the point of using military force and we were saying no."
Mbeki condemned the way in which Britain presumed it could still meddle in Zimbabwean affairs. "You are coming from London, you don't like Robert Mugabe for whatever reason - people in London don't like him - and we are going to remove him and therefore it means we are going to put someone else in his place? Why does it become a British responsibility to decide who leads the people of Zimbabwe? So we're saying, 'No, let Zimbabweans sit down, let them agree what they do with their country.'"
After leaving office as prime minister, Tony Blair set up the Africa Governance Initiative, which currently has staff working in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Malawi and South Sudan.