Mbeki 'not invited' to Zim meeting

Southern African leaders will hold an emergency meeting in Swaziland on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe but key negotiator President Thabo Mbeki will not attend, officials said.

Earlier, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the United Nations to isolate President Robert Mugabe and said a peacekeeping force was needed in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe has shrugged off Monday’s unprecedented and unanimous decision by the United Nations Security Council to condemn violence against the opposition and declare that a free and fair presidential election on Friday was impossible.

The meeting in Swaziland’s capital Mbabane has been called by the leading regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as international pressure mounts on Mugabe to resolve his country’s political turmoil and economic meltdown.

The leaders of Tanzania, Angola and Swaziland would attend the meeting in their capacity as the SADC’s troika organ on politics, defence and security, the Tanzanian government said in a statement.

“Others who have been invited to attend the meeting are the current SADC chairperson, [President] Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, and the SADC mediator for Zimbabwe, [President] Thabo Mbeki of South Africa,” said the statement.

“The meeting will discuss how the SADC and its troika organ on politics, defence and security can help Zimbabwe to get out of its current state of conflict.”

Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said the South African leader, who has been mediating between Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF under a SADC mandate, will not attend.

“We are not going to Swaziland. We have had no invitation to go to any meeting, especially Swaziland,” Ratshitanga told Reuters.

Tsvangirai, who has withdrawn from the election and taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare since Sunday, said Zimbabwe would “break” if the world did not come to its aid.

“We ask for the UN to go further than its recent resolution, condemning the violence in Zimbabwe, to encompass an active isolation of the dictator Mugabe,” Tsvangirai wrote in the Guardian newspaper.

“For this we need a force to protect the people. We do not want armed conflict, but the people of Zimbabwe need the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force,” said Tsvangirai.

“Such a force would be in the role of peacekeepers, not trouble-makers. They would separate the people from their oppressors and cast the protective shield around the democratic process for which Zimbabwe yearns.”

Pressure has increased on Mugabe from both inside and outside Africa over Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis, blamed by the West and the opposition on the 84-year-old president who has held power for 28 years.

The United States has urged SADC to declare both the election and Mugabe’s government illegitimate.

Friday’s vote was meant to be a run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. The opposition leader won a first round in March but official figures did not give him an outright victory.

Tsvangirai’s MDC won a parallel parliamentary election in March, sending Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party to its first defeat since independence from Britain in 1980. - Reuters

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