Mkapa mediation effort doomed

HARARE - Yet another mediation effort has been launched to solve the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe but analysts and politicians told IRIN there was little hope of success.
Benjamin Mkapa, a former Tanzanian head of state, has been asked by regional leaders to help find a solution

to the divide between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and an opposition that rejects the legitimacy of his government. Without a settlement, Zimbabwe’s pariah status in western capitals is likely to continue, and financial aid will remain frozen. Zimbabwe’s southern African neighbours fear the accelerating meltdown on their doorstep.
“We remain concerned not only about the effects on the people of Zimbabwe, but the effect on the region as a whole,” South Africa’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Aziz Pahad, said earlier this year.
There was much media speculation ahead of last week’s African Union summit in Banjul, Gambia, that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and South African President Thabo Mbeki would meet Mugabe to explore prospects for a negotiated settlement. After 40 minutes of talks, the UN chief announced he was throwing his weight behind Mkapa.
“There is nothing more the Secretary-General would want to see than to bring an end to the humanitarian suffering of the people on the ground,” said Annan’s spokesman, Marie Okabe. “Since there is a mediator named … he would like to back that process.” Mkapa takes over from former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, and Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, among others, who have all failed to make headway in promoting dialogue in Zimbabwe over the past five years.
Mugabe has repeatedly accused the opposition of being “[British Prime Minister Tony] Blair’s puppets” and said in Banjul that he would prefer to negotiate directly with Britain rather than talking to Zimbabwe’s divided opposition. The main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the country’s largest opposition party, rejected the idea.
“The crisis in Zimbabwe has to be correctly identified and then remedied. It is the crisis of a weak and usurped constitution, a crisis of a privatised and militarised state that has failed. The mediation that is required is between the government and the brutalised people of Zimbabwe,” MDC secretary for international relations, Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, told IRIN.
“To us there can be no solution to the Zimbabwean crisis unless Zimbabweans are allowed the opportunity of writing a new democratic constitution for themselves. After that, free and fair elections can be held under international supervision,” he added.
Mkapa has tried to assure the government of his even-handedness. “They [other countries] will, however, be upset by the fact that, unlike many people, I will not censure the Zimbabwean government over alleged human rights and a diminishing democratic space,” he wrote in the official Sunday Mail just before the Banjul summit.
Welshman Ncube, secretary-general of a rival MDC faction, commented, “Mkapa should be very clear that the crisis in Zimbabwe is because the government is at war with its people, which has resulted in misgovernance, electoral disputes and repressive laws.” He pointed out that “it is not a question of how many carrots the government should be given, but how many sticks – the issue of international aid does not arise, because aid will definitely start flowing into Zimbabwe as soon as order returns”.
Zimbabwe’s security and lands minister, Didymus Mutasa, has dismissed the notion of talks with any faction of the MDC, saying, “Where in this world has a government negotiated with the opposition so that the opposition can take over power?”
Pro-democracy activist Lovemore Madhuku said no political deal – including promises of non-persecution for alleged human rights abuses – was likely to appeal to Mugabe. “There has been talk that there could be an arrangement to give Mugabe a soft landing, but that is unlikely … Mugabe is in total control and the succession debate is taboo in Zanu (PF),” he said.

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