President Thabo Mbeki will attend a Southern African Development Community (SADC) emergency summit this weekend in Zambia on the post-election crisis in Zimbabwe, the government said on Thursday.
“South Africa will participate in this summit within the context of regional efforts to assist the people of Zimbabwe to address their political and economic challenges,” a statement said.
It gave a reminder that Mbeki was the chief mediator between Zimbabwe’s governing Zanu-PF party and the opposition in the build-up to the March 29 elections.
It said he had done so “with a view to creating a climate for the holding of the recent elections, which were hailed as peaceful, and whose outcomes would not be contested”.
However, 12 days after the presidential poll there has still been no official word on the outcome and Zanu-PF is contesting enough seats to overturn the opposition’s slim majority in simultaneous parliamentary elections.
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has claimed outright victory in the presidential election, but Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF have said a run-off is needed.
Mbeki met Tsvangirai on Thursday to discuss that country’s election crisis, MDC members said on Friday.
“They have already met. They met yesterday [Thursday] at half past five,” said Nqobizitha Mlilo, spokesperson for the MDC. “The meeting went well. The details of it are not at this stage for public consumption.”
A former MDC lawmaker exiled in South Africa, Roy Bennett, also confirmed the meeting took place, saying it was “around the Zimbabwean situation and Tsvangirai was happy”.
The South African government, however, said it could not confirm that the meeting had occurred.
The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday, however, that Mbeki’s cherished policy of “quiet diplomacy” on Zimbabwe has been rejected by his own party.
The split between the Union Buildings and Luthuli House on the issue became painfully apparent this week when Tsvangirai chose to meet African National Congress (ANC) president Jacob Zuma and secretary general Gwede Mantashe at ANC headquarters in Johannesburg.
After the meeting, Zuma said from his homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, that it was wrong for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to keep the world in suspense about the outcome of the election.
The M&G understands that at its last meeting in March, the ANC’s national executive committee debated the quiet-diplomacy policy and concluded that it had been ineffective in dealing with the Zimbabwean crisis.
Tsvangirai’s party on Thursday ruled out its participation in a run-off and said it planned to form a government of national unity.
Both Tsvangirai and Mugabe are expected to attend Saturday’s summit of the the 14-nation SADC in Lusaka.
The most important job of the summit would be to push the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the country’s election results, a senior South African official has told the M&G.
“Without them we can’t do anything,” the official said. “On what basis do you intervene if the results are not there? People will tell you the process is still ongoing and we have to wait. They will say we have the right to query some of the things so you can’t come in and change that process.”