August 24, 2007

Mugabe pressurised on reforms / SADC agrees on rescue package

President Robert Mugabe was subject to pressures by his colleagues during the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Zambia. He was asked to comply with the common electoral rules adopted across the SADC region in 2004. SADC leaders took note of President Thabo Mbeki's report on the Zimbabwean crisis, Mugabe’s attacks on opposition ahead of next year’s general elections and the deepening economic hardships in Zimbabwe.
A rescue package for Zimbabwe, which will be assessed by a team of regional finance ministers, was presented by the SADC Executive Secretary, Tomaz Salamao. Before his government access US $500 million aid package, Mugabe must first commit himself to reforms, including conducting free and fair elections as well as drafting a new constitution that gets the approval of the opposition. His government was asked to legislate electoral provisions that meet international standards of fairness and transparency and repeal all laws used to muzzle or gag the media or close newspapers and others used to silence or intimidate political opponents.
Zimbabwean government has also been asked to respect Mbeki’s mediation process if it wants to enjoy the aid. According to ‘The Zimbabwean’, SADC leaders insisted that Zimbabwe would not be given aid in the absence of a clear signal that Mugabe had agreed to a set of “circumstances” or a “context” that would justify assistance. Mbeki believed that the Zimbabwean government recognised the urgency of a political and economic recovery plan. But Mbeki was not confident that the Southern African country was ready to create the circumstances that would make the recovery possible. Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa who has assumed leadership of SADC, called for free and fair polls in Zimbabwe in 2008.
In the meantime, it has emerged that President Robert Mugabe has stormed out of the recent SADC- summit after an explosive clash with Zambian President Mwanawasa during a closed session. Diplomatic sources who attended the summit have revealed that Mugabe walked out of the meeting after a row with Mwanawasa over Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis. The sources said Mugabe went off in a huff after the unprecedented confrontation. Mwanawasa was chairing the meeting, which ended on a sour note. The wrangle was caused by an attempt by Mwanawasa to table Zimbabwe for discussion, a move which enraged Mugabe. Mugabe arrived home early, saying that the meeting went well. However, he made it clear that his regime would continue with its own programmes, regardless of what the SADC leaders were saying.
This was contrary to President Thabo Mbeki's claims that there were no divisions over Zimbabwe at the summit and that the SADC was committed to helping Zimbabwe out of its crisis. But information gleaned from senior SADC diplomats indicates there were not just divisions, but a fierce clash between Mugabe and Mwanawasa. They say the trouble started after Mbeki delivered his report on talks between the Zimbabwean ruling party Zanu (PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Mbeki had earlier given the report to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the chairman of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security. Mbeki briefed the summit on Zimbabwe in his capacity as an SADC-appointed mediator. Mbeki said in his briefing there was progress in the talks, although parties needed to intensify negotiations. (afrolNews / Business Day, Johannesburg)


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