SADC under pressure as summit heads for disarray over Zim crisis

The Southern African Development Community summit that is set to begin in South Africa this weekend is heading for conflict over the Zimbabwe political crisis - with two influential presidents unlikely to attend.


Botswana’s President Ian Khama and his government threatened to boycott the meeting, if Robert Mugabe attends before a deal to end the crisis in Zimbabwe is reached. Mugabe has since reportedly been invited along with Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara in order for SADC to address the leadership issue which has caused a deadlock in the talks. Mugabe’s attendance is likely the reason why the Botswana government on Thursday sent only lower-ranking officials to a ministerial meeting held to prepare for the summit.


At the same time, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa is still being treated in hospital with a heart complaint after suffering a stroke in June. He was also due to hand over the reigns of the SADC chair to South African President Thabo Mbeki during the weekend summit, and because of a reported constitutional deadlock in Zambia, Mwanawasa’s second in command and acting head of state may not perform the duty. However analysts have said the real reason behind Zambia’s non attendance, has more to do with Mwanawasa’s vocal statements against Mugabe, than his health.  


Meanwhile, Mbeki is set to face some serious questions as the SADC appointed mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis. Mbeki’s mediation efforts and softly, softly approach have been widely criticised and he has come under growing pressure to garner results. The long time friend of Mugabe had been pushing for a result before the summit was convened, even rushing to Harare last weekend to thrash out a deal – but to no avail.


SADC itself has also come under pressure from rights groups, civil society organisations and unions across the region, to intervene in the crisis. Human Rights Watch this week called for SADC to pressure Mugabe’s regime to end the ongoing human rights violations in Zimbabwe, while South Africa’s trade union federation COSATU has organised a mass rally at the site of Saturday’s meeting, against Mugabe’s dictatorship.

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