/ 29 October 2008

UN chief presses Mugabe to end Zim crisis

The political crisis in Zimbabwe has lasted far too long and President Robert Mugabe must resolve the power-sharing impasse, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, a prominent Zimbabwean women’s activist group said its jailed leaders will join a nationwide prayer vigil for an end to the crisis.

The UN chief has been discussing Zimbabwe’s crisis with other leaders and dispatched his senior adviser to Harare. On Wednesday he told reporters in the Philippines that the crisis ”has been taking too long”.

”I sincerely hope that President Mugabe will no longer disappoint the international community,” Ban said. ”He should meet the expectations of the international community.”

Zimbabweans themselves were showing increasing impatience — and willingness to say so despite the Mugabe regime’s record of cracking down violently on dissent. They want their leaders to come to a political agreement and turn their attention to the economic crisis.

Zimbabweans face the world’s highest official inflation rate, and the UN predicts half of them will need food aid by next year.

Ban said he hoped a planned regional summit could break the impasse over the allocation of Cabinet posts among Mugabe’s party, Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a smaller opposition group.

Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, of trying to hold onto too many of the most powerful posts, despite agreeing on September 15 to share power.

Meanwhile, women of Zimbabwe Arise said its members across the country would pray on Wednesday evening ”for a speedy resolution to the crisis in Zimbabwe and for change for the better in the justice system in Zimbabwe, within both the courts and the prisons”.

The group said its leaders, Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, would be praying in the notorious Mlondolozi Prison in southern Zimbabwe where they have been jailed since holding a peaceful protest October 16.

Other protesters calling on politicians to resolve their power-sharing impasse were arrested and assaulted earlier this week.

Human Rights Watch, in a statement on Tuesday, called on Zimbabwean authorities to immediately release Williams and Mahlangu and allow peaceful demonstrations.

‘Pure lack of sincerity’
Meanwhile, the MDC on Tuesday demanded that the government give Tsvangirai a passport to attend the upcoming summit aimed at saving the troubled power-sharing deal.

Southern African nations are set to hold an emergency summit on Zimbabwe in the coming weeks, after key regional leaders failed to broker a compromise to save the plan for a unity government.

The chief negotiator for the MDC, Tendai Biti, told reporters that if the summit is held outside Zimbabwe, the opposition leader will not attend unless he receives a passport.

Tsvangirai has not had a passport for months and must seek an emergency travel document (ETD) each time he leaves the country.

”We will not travel on an ETD. We want a passport,” Biti said.

”The passport issue is the crudest form of lack of sincerity” by Mugabe’s long-ruling Zanu-PF, he added.

Biti added that his party was committed to reaching an agreement but would not accept a bad deal.

”The core of our differences with Zanu-PF is the pure lack of sincerity on the part of Zanu-PF,” he said.

Tsvangirai refused to attend a summit in Swaziland last week in protest at long delays in receiving his travel papers. — Sapa-AP, Reuters