Zimbabwe talks are on the SADC summit agenda

The crisis ridden power-sharing talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC are expected to be high on the agenda of this weekend's SADC summit in Johannesburg.


South African based political analyst Glen Mpani said President Thabo Mbeki, as host of the summit, would use the opportunity to call a special session on Zimbabwe. He is due to accept the bloc’s presidency from Zambia.


Talks to salvage a power-sharing deal neared collapse on Tuesday after three days of scant progress, when Morgan Tsvangirai walked out of the discussions.


Mpani said all parties are potentially closer than they have ever been to a deal, but the final steps are the hardest and still look formidable because of the issue of who will control executive powers. Mugabe has ruled the country with an iron fist since Independence 28 years ago.


Tsvangirai and Mugabe remain at loggerheads as to who will chair the cabinet in a power-sharing government. The talks could not proceed beyond this point, forcing Mbeki to adjourn the proceedings.


Mbeki’s game plan this weekend will be easy. He will show his peers how far the negotiations have gone and give them an update on the sticking points, at which they will give him more time to try and secure a deal,’ Mpani said.


Mpani added; The fact he has managed to bring Mugabe and Tsvangirai to the negotiating table will force SADC to leave him to continue with the negotiations.’


Mbeki has invited all parties to the SADC summit where it’s hoped input from the SADC grouping, which appointed him the chief mediator last year, can help bridge the gap between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.


The power-sharing talks were originally set to run for a day when Mbeki flew into Harare last weekend, but ended up spending four days in the capital. Analysts had long feared they would either collapse because of the deep differences between Mugabe and Tsvangirai or drag on for many months.


Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister, said on Thursday SADC will render the assistance and support needed in Zimbabwe.

Briefing a foreign ministers’ meeting, Dlamini-Zuma said the country’s political and economic situation was one of the challenges facing the region.


These challenges can be overcome. As a region we must not allow any situation to threaten our unity and cohesion, no matter how difficult it is,’ Dlamini-Zuma said.

The political and economic situation in Zimbabwe has impacted negatively on SADC’s march to an envisaged regional integration and South Africa’s hosting of the FIFA 2010 World Cup finals.

During last year’s SADC summit, it was anticipated that Zimbabwe’s economy would improve and help pave the way for a Customs Union and Free Trade Area. But the economy has almost completely collapsed, with inflation topping 42 million percent.

Hyperinflation and over 80 percent unemployment has forced millions to migrate to neighbouring countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia. It is only when Zimbabwe’s problems are solved that it will be feasible for the regional bloc to form a viable Customs Union and Free Trade Area.

Both Tsvangirai and Mugabe will therefore come under intense pressure from the regional leaders to strike a deal and move the country forward.

SW Radio News Africa, 14 August 2008

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