/ 2 November 2007

Report: Mugabe ignores Mandela’s plea to step down

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, in his 27th year of rule, is ignoring approaches from former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela to step down, reports said on Friday.

The usually reliable weekly Zimbabwe Independent, quoting unnamed sources, also said that former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan had tried to meet with Mugabe to discuss his retirement, but he too had been ignored. No comment could be obtained from Mugabe’s office.

The once-prosperous Southern African country’s economy is collapsing with world record hyperinflation, an effectively broke Treasury and nearly half the population having fled abroad in the last seven years.

Mugabe, who is 83, is internationally condemned for maintaining power through a regime of ruthless and violent repression.

However, he has declared openly that he intends to stand for re-election as president for yet another term, of five years, in elections next year.

This week his ruling Zanu-PF party announced that an extraordinary congress it is to hold next month would be allowed to consider no other candidates. He is the oldest head of state and of government in the world.

The Independent said Mandela last March sent a team of advisers to Harare with a message that expressed his concern that Mugabe could be hounded like former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet after he left office.

Mandela also advised Mugabe to leave ”sooner than later” so that he could retain ”residual respect and a modicum of dignity”, the newspaper said. Mandela received no reply, it said.

The South African icon then attempted to use the Global Elders group of internationally respected former leaders, which includes Mandela as its patron, fellow Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Annan, former United States president Jimmy Carter and former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, to engage Mugabe.

The newspaper said the Elders, who last month travelled to Darfur to try to mediate a way out of the crisis there, met in Johannesburg in July to discuss approaching Mugabe.

Annan was nominated to make overtures to him. He tried to arrange a meeting but was snubbed, the Independent said. The Elders have not given up trying, it added. — Sapa-dpa