SA close to brokering Zim deal

South Africa is close to brokering a deal that would see Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai negotiate a unity government, a South African newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The report in Business Day came as African leaders prepared to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis at an African Union summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt amid calls for the continent to condemn Mugabe for holding a one-candidate presidential election marred by violence.

“The plan involves getting Mugabe and Tsvangirai to work together to implement agreements between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change made in January. These include a new constitution and other reforms,” the paper said.

According to the paper, “Mbeki’s envoys, Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi and his legal adviser, Mojanku Gumbi, secured commitments from Mugabe and Tsvangirai they would enter negotiations on the deal.”

It was also reported on Tuesday that Tsvangirai had returned home after leaving the Dutch embassy in Harare, where he took refuge from political violence last week.

The Dutch government said Tsvangirai left the embassy on Monday but was always welcome back and The Netherlands would stay in touch with him, adding that The Netherlands hoped he could play a role in some kind of transitional government.

‘Gross rampant mismanagement’
Meanwhile, renowned development economist Jeffrey Sachs told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday that African leaders and international planners must pay more attention to the “astounding disaster” of Zimbabwe’s economy.

Speaking on the sidelines of the African Union summit, Sachs warned there would be no economic recovery without political stability.

“This is one of the most astounding economic disasters in a peacetime economy in history,” said Sachs, who is also special adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“It’s already in a hyperinflation of more than one million percent year over year and, until there is a legitimate government, it will not be possible for them to stabilise the economy.”

Mugabe has overseen the collapse of Zimbabwe’s once-thriving agriculture sector and the country is now short of even the most basic foodstuffs, with most people surviving on two meals a day.

“The rest of Africa has to realise [this], because with a profoundly destabilised Zimbabwe, millions of refugees spill over and the instability in the rest of the region will be pervasive,” Sachs said.

“The fact of an inflation of more than one million percent a year should be taken note of by policy makers in Africa, by policy makers in the United States, by people that are attending to this [summit].

“Already there’s a complete collapse of living standards and even the ability to meet basic needs, and African leaders should understand that, international leaders should understand,” he said.

“The reality is that, until there’s a sound political situation, it’s not possible to stabilise an economy in that situation.
I think that if more attention were given to that it would be helpful.”

Mugabe says the economic troubles stem from targeted sanctions imposed on him and his inner circle by the European Union and the US following 2002 presidential elections judged by Western observers to be “fundamentally flawed”.

“The sanctions didn’t cause the state of the economy, gross rampant mismanagement caused the state of the economy,” said Sachs.

At least 80% of Zimbabwe’s population now lives below the poverty line, often skipping meals and walking or cycling to work in order to stretch their incomes to the next payday.—Reuters, AFP

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