May 25, 2006

Annan visit “no longer expected”

Zimbabwe is no longer expecting the visit by United Nations Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan to assess the impact of the clean-up operation because the purpose of the invitation has fallen away, a senior Government official said. Responding to reports from London quoting South African President Thabo Mbeki as saying the UN holds the key to solving "an economic and political crisis" in Zimbabwe, the Secretary for Information and Publicity Cde George Charamba said the Zimbabwe Government was unaware of any UN intervention on Harare. "I am unaware of any UN intervention on Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is not a UN issue. What I am aware of is a stale invitation, which was extended to the UN Secretary-General by President Robert Mugabe at the time of the clean-up operation. That clean-up operation long gave way to Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle for the construction of houses for the displaced and homeless, thereby removing the original purpose of the invitation and that is now known to the UN. The situation has changed," Cde Charamba said.

The Zimbabwe issue, he said, arose out of a bilateral dispute with Britain over the land reform programme. "Zimbabwe is under sanctions, illegal sanctions, from the European Union and United States and this in respect of its land reform programme. Zimbabwe has had problems with Britain, again related to the land reform programme. This is a bilateral matter between Britain and Zimbabwe. It’s not a UN matter. Zimbabwe’s expectation was, and remains, that the UN should have challenged the illegal sanctions imposed on it purely on a bilateral matter dealing with colonial imbalances," Cde Charamba, who is also President Mugabe’s spokesman, said. He added: "Of course, we know the British and Americans have been trying to use the UN system to further their narrow foreign policy goals. I doubt whether President Mbeki would want to be part of that intention."

In an interview published in the Financial Times, President Mbeki threw his weight behind Mr Annan’s possible visit to Zimbabwe reportedly to negotiate a deal with President Mugabe. Mr Mbeki told the British daily: "We are all awaiting the outcome of his intervention. What Mr Annan is interested in is that the circumstances must be created for Zimbabweans to face their real problems: the falling standard of living and so on." The South African leader continued: "You have got to do something to turn around the economy. It is necessary to turn around the climate for that. "You need to normalise relations between Zimbabwe and the rest of the world. So (Mr Annan’s) interaction with the Zimbabwean Government would be intended for those sort of outcomes, including what sort of assistance the UN would give," he said. A UN official said Mr Annan had been exploring the possibility of movement on the political and economic front ahead of a possible visit. However, he told the Financial Times: "At this stage, it would be premature to talk about an initiative. We are exploring whether there are possibilities." Mr Annan had been expected to visit Zimbabwe in March, but did not do so. (The Herald, Harare)

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