Tsvangirai embarks on diplomatic tour of Africa

Morgan Tsangirai

Patricia Mpofu

HARARE - Zimbabwe opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has embarked on a tour of key African capitals as he tries to mobilise continental leaders to pressure President Robert Mugabe to agree to an equitable distribution of key posts in a unity government.

Tsvangirai’s diplomatic initiative comes as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) prepares to hold an emergency summit next Sunday to try to coax the opposition leader and Mugabe to reach agreement on the composition of a new unity government proposed under September 15 power-sharing agreement.

MDC secretary general Tendai Biti told Zimonline that Tsvangirai had this week held talks with the presidents of Botswana and South Africa, Ian Khama and Kgalema Motlanthe respectively on the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Motlanthe holds the SADC’s rotating chair and will preside over Sunday’s summit while Khama has emerged as the region’s foremost critic of Mugabe’s controversial rule.

Khama on Monday called for a fresh vote in Zimbabwe, saying it was the only way out of the deadlock over how to share ministerial posts in the proposed unity government, a call that drew an angry reaction from Harare which accused the Botswana President of interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.

Biti said Tsvangirai was due to meet African Union chairman and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete on Wednesday while the MDC secretary general was on Thursday set to lead a team of party officials to Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana to meet leaders there.

MDC deputy leader Thoko Khupe was travelling to Zambia while another team of officials had been dispatched to Mozambique where a key meeting of regional ministers is taking place.

Biti said: It is a massive diplomatic offensive and this time we hope Africa sees Mugabe’s true colours. We hope to achieve finality in this matter but its unfortunate some regional leaders don’t see that Mugabe wants to take every one on a ride.

While Tsvangirai has strong support from key Western countries in his bid to end Mugabe’s rule, he enjoys divided support from African leaders.

Several African leaders have denounced Mugabe for ruining Zimbabwe but the veteran leader still has many allies across Africa where many people still respect him for his role in the anti-colonial struggle and also for what some see as his standing up to the world’s big powers.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and another opposition leader Arthur Mutambara agreed to form an all-inclusive government under a September 15 power-sharing deal that retains Mugabe as president while making Tsvangirai prime minister and Mutambara deputy prime minister.

Analysts see such a power-sharing government as the first step to ending decade-long food shortages and economic crisis in Zimbabwe. But six weeks after agreeing to share power political leaders are yet to form a unity government because they cannot agree on should control the most powerful ministries.

Political analysts remain pessimistic that Sunday’s regional summit will be able to break the power-sharing deadlock, saying SADC lacks the collective will to force Mugabe to compromise with Tsvangirai. –

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