Zimbabwe balks at Wade’s mediation bid

As new opposition accusations of violence emerged this week to threaten Thabo Mbeki’s mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, neither the ruling party nor the political opposition appeared keen on Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade’s latest bid for involvement in the talks.

Wade said earlier this month that he plans to visit Zimbabwe within weeks to ‘talk with him [President Robert Mugabe] to see what Africa can do”.

Wade said he wants the Mbeki mediation process, which has been sanctioned by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), to be broadened to include the entire African Union.

‘We should have an official [AU] position about Zimbabwe, but there is no official position and this country is getting worse and worse,” Wade told reporters in Dakar. ‘We should do something and not say brother Mbeki please solve the problem of Zimbabwe. He cannot solve the problem alone.”

Wade did not arrive for an earlier scheduled one-day visit in September. No official explanation was given for the last-minute cancellation.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said that although ‘anyone is free to visit”, he was not aware of any scheduled visit by Wade, or what role the Senegalese leader intended to play.

A column on Saturday in the state newspaper, The Herald, gave the best indication of how wary Zanu-PF is of Wade’s intentions. Linking Wade to the row over whether Mugabe should attend the December EU-Africa summit, the paper said: ‘France is seeking justification to attend [the summit] through the dutiful Senegalese President Wade who thinks he can do better than Mbeki in bringing about a resolution of an impasse which has already been unlocked — the Mbeki mediation is going on very well, too well in fact.”

Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary general and one of the opposition’s two mediators, said his party saw no reason to doubt the Mbeki process.

Zanu-PF would be the most opposed to a widening of the mediation, because this would imply the country was in disarray, said analysts.

Already Mugabe has fought Western attempts to drag the crisis to the United Nations and angrily rejected UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s proposal to designate a UN envoy to assess the humanitarian and human rights crisis in the country. Mugabe told Ki-moon at the UN that the agreement his party reached last month with the MDC on electoral reforms showed the SADC process was sufficient.

Political analyst Brian Kagoro said Wade’s rivalry with Mbeki would serve only to ‘put Mbeki and Wade on the catwalk, as if this is some beauty contest”. Mbeki’s team faces a bigger battle than keeping Wade away, as the opposition increases its threats to leave the talks and boycott elections.

The MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai has written to the SADC threatening to withdraw from the talks in protest at what it says is an escalation of violence against its supporters.

In its letter, the MDC detailed a series of attacks that have occurred since the talks began in April. A total of 103 rallies and marches had been crushed, while seven murders, 18 rapes, 69 abductions, 459 cases of torture, 2 323 cases of interference or intimidation, 1 141 cases of assault and 152 cases of unlawful detention had been recorded.

‘While the MDC and Zanu-PF are engaged in dialogue in Pretoria, the regime has continued to hound our supporters, brutally assaulting and attacking them against the spirit of the dialogue process,” the MDC said. ‘There’s no use being in talks in Pretoria and at war here at home.”

Elphas Mukonoweshuro, Tsvangirai’s closest adviser, said ‘the process [of pulling out] has already started”. A meeting of the MDC’s top executives this weekend will decide the issue. No comment was available from either Zanu-PF or the more moderate Arthur Mutambara faction of the MDC.

Under pressure from hard-line elements of his party, who are bitterly opposed to negotiating with Mugabe, Tsvangirai has said he will boycott elections next year if the Zanu-PF does not repeal security and media laws immediately. The laws make free and fair elections impossible, he said.

Possible new splits within Tsvangirai’s party also threaten the integrity of the negotiations. Last week Tsvangirai sacked the head of his women’s league, Lucia Matibenga, who has strong grassroots support, replacing her with the wife of one of his allies and widening rifts within his party.

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Elvira Van Noort
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