Fresh talks on Zimbabwe may not yield results
Johannesburg - Southern African leaders are planning their seventh summit on Zimbabwe since elections last March, and analysts said the latest diplomatic push stood little chance of faring better than the rest. Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have held three extraordinary summits and three security summits in hopes of forging a unity government with President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. When 12 hours of talks mediated by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe again failed Monday to reach a deal, the rivals agreed to yet another summit despite growing frustrations on both sides at the protracted negotiations. But analysts said the latest initiative was unlikely to succeed. "Unless SADC changes its approach radically, the likelihood of success remains very low," said Laurence Caromba, an analyst at the Centre for International Political Studies in Pretoria.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed a unity deal in September, but it soon stalled over disputes on how to share power in cabinet. Regional leaders plan to meet Monday in hopes of breaking the impasse between Mugabe's Zanu-PF and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). "Right now, neither side has an incentive to compromise. The deal on the table offers so little to the MDC that it would be suicidal to accept it," Caromba said. "On the other hand, Mugabe will have no reason to give up power voluntarily unless the international community is willing to apply some form of sanctions or coercion," he added. Last Monday's talks had been dubbed "D-Day" for the country's unity government. But neither side backed down, with Tsvangirai insisting his party should hold key cabinet posts, including the home affairs ministry which is responsible for the police.
Tanana Mpanyane, an analyst at the South African Institute for Security Studies, said the regional bloc remained split over how to handle Zimbabwe and doubted the new summit could reach agreement. Some countries in the region lack the political will to force Mugabe into a deal, while other leaders remain sympathetic to the man who was once seen as a grand statesman among the continent's liberation movements, he said. "Previous summits have been attended by very few heads of state, giving the impression that not everyone is keen on solving the matter," Mpanyane said. "Countries like Angola, Namibia and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) have close ties with Zimbabwe. Their voice and attendance would be crucial in this summit," he said. The meeting will take place against a backdrop of a deadly wave of cholera that has killed more than 2 200 people in Zimbabwe and spilled to neighbouring countries. That has only worsened the daily hardships in Zimbabwe, where half the population needs food aid, while hyperinflation has destroyed the national currency.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, lost the March vote for the first time to his arch-rival, Tsvangirai. That unleashed a wave of political violence, targeting mainly MDC supporters, that prompted Tsvangirai to pull out of a run-off last June. Hopes had soared in September for an end to the crisis, when the rivals signed a deal that would leave 84-year-old Mugabe as president while making Tsvangirai prime minister. But on Monday Tsvangirai called the latest failure in negotiations "the darkest day of our lives". "Any further lack of compromise by the dealers could prove disastrous for Zimbabwe," said Mduduzi Khumalo, an analyst from the Africa Institute. "Mugabe does not want to give anything to Tsvangirai and the MDC. SADC needs to go to this summit as a united front and issue a strong stand against Mugabe," said Khumalo. "The leaders are likely to reach a compromise, but that compromise is likely to be subjected to another Mugabe dragging," he warned.