SA backs Mbeki as Zim mediator

South Africa’s new leader on Thursday backed former president Thabo Mbeki as the mediator in Zimbabwe, saying he would revive a stalled power-sharing deal he brokered last month.

“Our government has full confidence in Mr Mbeki’s ability to build on the historic successes already made in the power-sharing negotiations under his mediation,” President Kgalema Motlanthe said in a statement.

“Therefore, we will further fully support him as the facilitator,” he added.

Motlanthe took office last week after Mbeki was forced to resign due to a power struggle in South Africa’s ruling party. Mbeki got Zimbabwe’s political rivals to sign a deal for a unity government to end a ruinous political crisis.

Mbeki’s resignation raised concerns about the future of the deal, which bogged down this week after President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai failed to agree on how to divide key ministries.

Motlanthe said he had informed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) of his government’s support for Mbeki’s continued rule as the regional bloc’s mandated facilitator.

Mbeki’s efforts had proven his “dispassionate vision for a lasting political solution to the challenges facing Zimbabwe”, he said.

The agreement signed on September 15 had been hailed as a breakthrough in Zimbabwe’s political crisis, sparked after Mugabe lost a first round of elections in March.

Negotiations have appeared to be at a stalemate, with Tsvangirai’s MDC claiming that Mugabe wants to retain key posts — believed to be the defence, home affairs, state security and finance ministries.

After Mugabe and Tsvangirai failed to resolve their differences during a meeting Tuesday, the MDC called on Mbeki and SADC to resume their mediation to break the logjam.

But the chief negotiator for Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party denied any deadlock, saying no outside mediation was needed.

“Anyone who says there is a deadlock is being mischievous. There is commitment on all of us to make things work,” Patrick Chinamasa said.

“If there was a disagreement, as is being suggested, I don’t think it’s one that would justify calling in the facilitator,” Chinamasa said.

“If there are any issues, I believe they can resolve them among themselves,” he added.

MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said the party had already contacted SADC.

“This is an urgent matter, communication lines to SADC have been activated,” Chamisa said.

Mugabe said on Monday that a new government would be formed by the end of the week, but that now appears a dim prospect. — AFP

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