|March 31, 2007
SADC unhappy with situation in Zimbabwe
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of State and Government summit has mandated South African President, Thabo Mbeki, to spearhead the promotion of dialogue among political parties and interest groups in Zimbabwe. This was one of the resolutions of the two-day SADC heads of State extraordinary summit which ended in the Tanzanian coastal city of Dar-es-Salaam. Releasing the joint communique which was adopted by all the 10 heads of State, who included President Mwanawasa at Kempinshi Kilimanjaro Hotel, leaders expressed concern at the hostilities in Zimbabwe and wished that the situation would return to normal soon.
Host president, Jakaya Kikwete, said Mbeki would work closely with the sub-Troika of the SADC in charge of defence, security and peace. He said all the leaders were unhappy with the crisis in Zimbabwe, which was described as unhealthy for democratic dispensation. According to Kikwete said the SADC leaders also appealed to the political parties in Zimbabwe to cooperate and give chance to the peace initiative to work. The Tanzanian president, who is also chairman of the Troika for defence, security and peace, said the leaders also considered and analysed the diplomatic and economic situations in Zimbabwe. To this effect, the leaders called on the international community to help Zimbabwe and the SADC region at large to return to normal unlike now when the country is seemingly isolated.
On the issue of the economy in that country, the leaders felt that the situation should not be left to deteriorate beyond the current levels and, as such, the SADC secretary general was tasked to analyse the situation and advise on the positive way forward.
Civil society groups in Zimbabwe have in the meantime revived calls for constitutional reform as South African President Thabo Mbeki begins mediation between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition to help resolve the country's political and economic crisis. Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a pressure group advocating constitutional reform, said, "Even though we don't expect Mbeki to dictate terms, it should be realised that constitutional reform is paramount in any dialogue that might take place and as a mediator he should stress that."
Zimbabwe's constitution vests considerable power in the office of the president. A raft of amendments and tough new laws has reduced basic freedoms such as the right to association and expression, undermining democracy, rights group charge.
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction of the MDC, said a new constitution should be put to a referendum before presidential and parliamentary elections are held next year. "We are optimistic that a solution will be found soon, even if that might take as long as 12 months. We need to be thorough and honest because what should be considered foremost are the burdened citizens," Chamisa said.
Mbeki has set up a five-member team to help speed up dialogue ahead of the polls. "In reality we don't have much time, because normally those elections in Zimbabwe take place in March. So that means that ... Zimbabweans probably have 11 months to do everything that is necessary to ensure that these elections are free and fair and that the outcome ... is not contested by anybody," he announced this week. Madhuku suggested Mbeki should consult beyond political parties and involve civil society and other organisations representing the interests of Zimbabweans.
(The Times of Zambia, Ndola)