News and Information

Mbeki Confronts Mugabe
September 23, 2004

Financial Gazette (Harare)

September 23, 2004
Posted to the web September 23, 2004

Njabulo Ncube

SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki, undoubtedly the globally preferred conduit for breaking through Zimbabwe's political impasse, is mulling appointing an emissary to the country in a last-ditch bid to untangle the longstanding stalemate between ZANU PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

To this end, this paper established this week, Mbeki, who has acted as the peace-broker in the country's nearly five-year political crisis, is scheduled to hold talks with President Robert Mugabe on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.

The New York talks would touch on the protracted political fallout pitting President Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF and the main opposition MDC, The Financial Gazette established yesterday. Mbeki has been at the centre of the delicate arbitration but many feel that his efforts to bring Zimbabwe's feuding political parties to the negotiating table have largely come unstuck. But the South African leader is now keen to kickstart formal talks between the Zimbabwean parties.

The Zimbabwean crisis has threatened to suck in other Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states.

Last Saturday evening, Mbeki met a three-man MDC delegation in Pretoria where the opposition party briefed him on failed informal talks and its latest political stance to shun all elections until the government made concessions on electoral reform.

It was then that it emerged that Mbeki, who is the chairman of the SADC protocol on politics, defence and security, earlier had met in Pretoria Nicholas Goche, Zimbabwe's Minister of State Security.

Although Goche could not immediately comment, this newspaper has it on good authority that he met Mbeki last week and they discussed Zimbabwe's political crisis.

Welshman Ncube, the MDC secretary-general, who headed the opposition delegation that included his deputy Gift Chimanikire and Gibson Sibanda, the party's deputy president, confirmed meeting Mbeki.

Insiders from both ZANU PF and the MDC revealed that Mbeki had expressed disappointment over a botched informal deal hatched by both parties to break the ice.

Mbeki, the sources said, had sought to find out how far the informal talks had gone and why the agreed deal had been abandoned when it had been identified as one avenue of breaking the political ice in Harare.

The deal entailed both parties supporting a Bill in parliament that would have resulted in the introduction of a bicameral parliament to encompass other far-reaching reforms.

The Bill, the brainchild of Goche, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Ncube, would have seen 50 reserved seats for women.

Five women would have been drawn from the country's 10 political provinces, according to information availed to this newspaper.

The terms of the Bill proposed by the trio would come to parliament as constitutional amendments, according to the source privy to the informal talks.

Under the same deal the non-constitutional seats were to be substituted by legislators to be brought to the House through proportional representation per province.

Chimanikire, the MDC deputy secretary-general who was part of the MDC delegation that met Mbeki last Saturday night in Pretoria, confirmed that the South African President had indicated he would appoint an emissary but after talking to President Mugabe.

"President Mbeki has agreed to appoint an emissary after learning that the informal talks had broken down. The emissary will look at the positions the two parties had arrived at before the informal talks collapsed two weeks ago," said Chimanikire.

"He (President Mbeki) indicated that he will consult Mugabe over the issue of an emissary in New York this week. After holding discussions with Mugabe, Mbeki indicated he would then contact the MDC and brief us on what was discussed," said Chimanikire.

The MDC deputy secretary-general also confirmed the bicameral deal his party had hammered out with ZANU PF to break the political stalemate. He added that the deal avoided discussing the Presidency, limiting it to parliamentary reform.

It is also understood that the MDC's decision to suspend participation in any future elections in the country had infuriated Mbeki, but after meeting the MDC he allegedly agreed to re-start negotiations to end the political impasse in Zimbabwe.

"We also took the opportunity to explain to President Mbeki why we suspended participating in future polls. We told him that President Mugabe was in violation of the spirit and letter of the Mauritius Protocol Summit," said Chimanikire.


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