/ 22 March 2007

SADC meeting steers clear of Zim crisis

A Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers meeting in Lesotho on Thursday steered clear of the political crisis in Zimbabwe.

The meeting reviewed last year’s heads of state and government summit decisions to see how far the SADC had gone in economic integration before the next ministerial meeting to be held in the near future.

In an interview, the South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aziz Pahad said: ”This was really a technical meeting. Yes, Zimbabwe is represented by a full delegation consisting of a minister and a delegation of officials.

”What is happening in Zimbabwe is an issue that is on everybody’s minds. South Africa has taken its own position on Zimbabwe. We have said quite consistently that we call for the respect of the law by all sides and we call for no violence against anybody.”

Pahad said it was the duty of South Africa and other countries in the region to create conditions for the Zimbabweans to solve their own problems.

Referring to media reports that Angola was to send about 3 000 troops into Zimbabwe, Pahad said: ”We know about these reports, but we cannot verify them.”

On the current political crisis in Lesotho, which led to five opposition political parties staging a sit-in in the house of Parliament and calling for a three-day national strike, Pahad said the SADC secretariat was working hard to ensure the crisis was resolved peacefully.

”We are really happy with the progress made in Lesotho. Lesotho has gone through difficult times. We think the elections were free and fair.

”There are some differences about proportional representation and the SADC secretariat has been intervening — that is why the three-day strike was called off — and conditions have been created for all parties to dialogue.”

Asked if SADC can play any useful role in resolving the current political impasse in the kingdom, Pahad indicated that SADC would assist where there were differences.

”We hope that this small matter about proportional representation can be resolved with the assistance of SADC. The executive secretary of SADC has been coming here a lot before and after elections. He has managed to get the confidence of the parties and I believe that together we can ensure that any

outstanding issues are resolved.”

The closed meeting would end late on Thursday night. — Sapa