Sunday, May 18, 2008

Zambian President Mwanawasa Admits to Being Pressured Over Zimbabwe

‘I am under pressure’

Daily Mail/SMR

ZAMBIAN President and Sadc chairman Mr Levy Mwanawasa has confessed that he is under pressure from the West to turn his back on Zimbabwe.

On Friday he revealed that some Western countries have been pushing for Zimbabwe’s expulsion from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), but says the regional bloc will not succumb to pressure from any quarter to take unwarranted action against the country.

Mr Mwanawasa, who chairs the 14-member group, said steps were already being taken to address challenges Zimbabwe is facing, adding that Zimbabwe will continue to be a member of Sadc despite Western demands for its expulsion.

Addressing journalists at a Press briefing at State House in Lusaka on Friday, Mr Mwanawasa said Sadc would not fall in the same trap as that of the Commonwealth, which suspended Zimbabwe on allegations of human rights abuses before the country withdrew from the club of former British colonies.

"We will not arrest and lock up President Mugabe or expel him or Zimbabwe from Sadc. That was done in Commonwealth, but who won?" The Daily Mail of Zambia quoted Mr Mwanawasa as having said.

He said the Commonwealth had just lost an opportunity to co-operate and work with Zimbabwe.

He said Sadc had done everything possible to help stabilise the political tension in the country.

"We will not use force to do what they (West) want us to do. Sadc will not do what the West wants us to do. The people who will suffer if we do that are ordinary Zimbabweans. This could even spill over to other neighbouring countries such as Zambia," he said.

Mr Mwanawasa said the regional grouping had taken a valid and crucial initiative to help Zimbabwe deal with its challenges. Mr Mwanawasa said Sadc persuaded the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to participate in the presidential election run-off now slated for June 27.

The confession by Mr Mwanawasa that he is under pressure to do the West’s bidding follows a series of questionable decisions by the Zambian leader over the Zimbabwe issue. He was widely criticised after he hastily called for a Sadc summit last month that was aimed at pressuring Zimbabwean authorities to announce the result of the March 29 presidential election.

The Zimbabwean Government said the call for the meeting had taken them by surprise as the Sadc chair had failed to follow laid-down procedures in inviting the member countries.

As if to confirm that the West was behind the convening of the meeting, news of the summit was broadcast in the international media two days before member states received official invitations.

President Mugabe could not attend the summit because of the short notice and eventually sent a delegation led by the Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, to represent him.

The ruling Zanu-PF party later said that Britain had been behind the convening of the meeting as its Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, had earlier written to MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai confirming that he would lobby Sadc to take action against Zimbabwe.

"The British government is supportive of (regime) change in Zimbabwe. The UK government believes that the situation is now untenable and a Zanu-PF government is no longer relevant to the people of Zimbabwe.

"I shall be communicating with you after lobbying Sadc to make sure that a solution to the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe is reached and your electoral process is respected," wrote Mr Brown to Mr Tsvangirai on April 9, three days before the Sadc summit in Lusaka.

Zanu-PF media sub-committee chairman Cde Patrick Chinamasa said the correspondence between Mr Brown and Mr Tsvangirai exposed Britain as the brains behind the Sadc summit.

"It is evident that the extraordinary summit was held at the behest of the British and Zanu-PF calls on (Sadc chairman) President Mwana-wasa not to be part of the regime change agenda against Zanu-PF," said Cde Chinamasa recently.

Meanwhile, Mr Tsvangirai did not return to Zimbabwe yesterday as expected citing "security concerns".

Mr Tsvangirai alleged that a plot had been hatched to assassinate him once he returned to Zimbabwe, but the Government dismissed the claim as baseless and frivolous.

"We have received information from a credible source concerning a planned assassination attempt," Mr Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe told the international media.

However, a Government spokesman said: "The claim is absolutely baseless and frivolous.

"As usual, Mr Tsvangirai is seeking to gain cheap political mileage by making unsubstantiated allegations. The people of Zimbabwe should not take such statements seriously."

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