Monday, January 26, 2009

South Africa Hosts Zimbabwe Talks

Monday, January 26, 2009
19:11 Mecca time, 16:11 GMT

South Africa hosts Zimbabwe talks

Motlanthe, the South African president, is hosting the summit

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, is holding talks with regional leaders at a South African summit in a bid to break the country's political deadlock.

Monday's meeting comes a week after power-sharing talks in Harare between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, collapsed once again.

Bright Matonga, the country's deputy information minister, said Mugabe would form a government after the summit with or without a deal with Tsvangirai.

"The way forward, soon after this summit whether there is an agreement or there is no agreement, president Mugabe is going to form a cabinet, 15 cabinet ministers, eight deputy ministers of ZANU-PF [Mugabe's party] " he said.

Tsvangirai says ZANU-PF is trying to sideline the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), adding no deal is possible unless party activists are released from jail.

Fresh sanctions

The summit, which takes place in Pretoria, is being hosted by Kgalema Motlanthe, the South African president.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutara, reporting from Harare, said: "The Zimbabweans are wondering what is it going to take, how long will they have to suffer, before regional leaders do something.

"This meeting could be the answer [or] it could not, but from the people I have spoken to, many people have given up hope."

A power-sharing deal, which allowed for Mugabe to remain president and for Tsvangirai to take the prime minister's post, was originally signed by the rival parties more than four months ago.

But it has not yet come into force because of the failure to agree on crucial ministerial positions.

With Mugabe engaged in tough bargaining with the opposition, the European Union has imposed new sanctions on Zimbabwe, where a cholera epidemic has led to the deaths of almost 2,800 people.

Western governments have repeatedly called for Mugabe to step down and are also pushing for major economic reforms before aid is offered.

Without a political settlement, it is also unlikely that sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe will be lifted.

The failure to find an agreement has worsened the humanitarian and economic crisis in the country, where more than half of the population is dependent on food aid.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Regional leaders meet to tackle Zim crisis


Regional leaders met Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at a summit in South Africa on Monday to try to push them to implement a Zimbabwe power-sharing deal that has been stalled for months.

The agreement is seen as a chance to prevent an economic collapse that could put added strain on neighbours that already host millions of Zimbabweans who fled in search of work and, more recently, to escape a deadly cholera epidemic.

According to an MDC official, the summit had made no progress.

The official said the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit had not persuaded the rivals to implement the power-sharing deal signed last September.

"We are worlds apart. If we were [inches] apart, we are now miles apart," the MDC official told Reuters.

Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed the agreement in September but have failed to agree on control of Cabinet posts, with neither side showing any sign of compromise.

"Questions concerning Zimbabwe are continuously being raised in capitals and streets of Africa, with the expectation that the Zimbabwean leadership of all persuasions, under the aegis of SADC, will resolutely resolve the impasse with decisiveness and statesmanship," South African President Kgalema Motlanthe told the summit. "I trust that we will not fail them."

Mugabe, in power since 1980, and his Zanu-PF party have urged the MDC to join a unity government but say they will not hesitate to form one without them.

Mugabe is expected to seek approval from regional leaders at the summit in Pretoria to form a government alone if need be.

Western leaders want Mugabe to step down and are pushing for a democratic government to embrace economic reforms before billions of dollars in aid is offered, but he has resisted their calls through several rounds of negotiations.

In Brussels, the European Union stepped up pressure on him on Monday by adding 27 individuals and 36 firms to a sanctions list and calling for a probe into Harare's diamond industry, EU officials said.

Last chance

A Zimbabwean deputy minister billed Monday's summit as the last chance for rescuing the power-sharing pact, viewed as the best hope for averting total meltdown in Zimbabwe, where prices double every day and cholera has killed nearly 2 900 people since August.

"The way forward soon after this summit, whether there is an agreement or there is no agreement, President Mugabe is going to form a Cabinet," Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told South African public broadcaster SAfm.

He said Mugabe would try to leave room for Tsvangirai if he decided to change his mind, but not for long.

Tsvangirai says Zanu-PF is trying to sideline him and wants control of powerful ministries such as home affairs. He says no deal is possible unless party activists are released from jail.

Zambia and Botswana have taken tough lines but other countries in the bloc favour a more diplomatic approach with Mugabe, who they still revere as a liberation hero.

Botswana's President, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, one of Mugabe's toughest critics, was to attend the summit after boycotting one in August.

Without a political settlement, it is unlikely sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe's leadership by Western countries will be lifted. -- Reuters

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address:

No comments: