Zim Was Forced to Postpone COMESA Summit

HARARE, November 19 2008 - Zimbabwe, contrary to official claims, was forced to postpone a crucial summit of Africa's largest trading block, Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), which was scheduled to begin in the resort town of Victoria Falls on November 23, RadioVOP can reveal.


The summit would have launched the long muted COMESA regional customs
union, which Zimbabwe, facing sanctions from most industrialised
countries – urgently and desperately needs.

Zimbabwe’s foreign minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, last week told the
Herald newspaper that the summit had been postponed to the 1st quarter
of next year "to allow the 19 member countries to continue and finalise
the harmonisation of tariffs within the planned customs union".

However, Harare-based diplomats told RadioVOP that the majority of
COMESA heads of state who had been invited to attend, had categorically
told the Zimbabwe government that they would boycott the summit unless
a new government of national unity as agreed at the SADC summit earlier
this month, was in place.

The ruling Zanu(PF) government, which has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron
fist for the past 28 years, signed an agreement with the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai to form
an inclusive government, but the deal has stalled for the past two
months following cabinet sharing disagreements.

A Kenyan diplomat told RadioVOP that "Harare was told in no uncertain
terms that no Head of State would grace the occasion if a recognised
government was not in place, and one in the opposition is on board as
agreed at the SADC meeting in South Africa earlier this month.

"Most African countries are now fed up with this intransigence and
insensitivity being show by Mugabe and feel it is now high time that he
is told the truth and they will now no longer dwell on diplomatic
niceties just to please him".

Zimbabwe first postponed the COMESA summit in May this year after
Tsvangirai and the opposition MDC trounced Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) in a
joint Presidential and Parliamentary poll held on March 29.

The defeat saw the country plunging into deep political unrest in which
thousands of opposition supporters and leaders, were killed, maimed or
forced to flee the country.

Mugabe soon after ordered a re-run of the Presidential  plebiscite but 
Tsvangirai, whose opposition MDC ironically holds the majority in
parliament, refused to participate citing increasing political violence.

With an economy in a sharp free fall and more than half the population
facing starvation, Zimbabwe desperately and urgently needs COMESA.

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