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Mbeki ready to rescue Zim

Dumisani Muleya

SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki has said he is prepared to talk to President Robert Mugabe and fly to Harare “everyday” if that is what it will take to resolve the current crisis.

Mbeki told journalists in New York after meeting Mugabe on Tuesday that he was willing to step up his efforts to deal with the situation.

Bheki Khumalo, Mbeki’s spokesman, said yesterday Mbeki met Mugabe on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in a renewed bid to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.

The meeting came as Mbeki’s younger brother, Moeletsi, said this week that South Africa should intervene in Zimbabwe “on the side of democracy and not back Zanu PF”.

“Our intervention should be to support democracy and not tolerate use of violence, torture and rigging of elections and, if necessary, we should support the opposition,” he said.

Anti-apartheid South African politician Helen Suzman in the BBC programme HARDtalk said Mbeki should “publicly condemn” Mugabe as part of the pressure against his repressive regime.

Mbeki met Mugabe a few days after hosting an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) delegation comprising Gibson Sibanda, Welshman Ncube and Gift Chimanikire, in Pretoria for talks. The meeting came almost three months after Mbeki’s self-imposed June deadline to clear the crisis elapsed.

Mbeki said he was prepared for “greater and regular engagement” with the ruling Zanu PF and the MDC. He said he had unrestricted direct access to Mugabe and the MDC leaders.

“If necessary I can phone him everyday, I can travel to Harare everyday. It’s not a problem if there is a need for that kind of engagement,” Mbeki told journalists after the meeting with Mugabe.

“Certainly we would be able to interact with them (Zanu PF and the MDC) daily. There would not be any problem from our point of view with regards to that. We will engage with them with greater regularity if they think that is necessary.”

Mbeki said the MDC wanted him to become “a mediator or facilitator” or appoint a “special envoy” to deal with the crisis but he thought it was “not really necessary” because he had unfettered access to both parties.

Mbeki is understood to have told Mugabe that resumption of talks between Zanu PF and the MDC was the only way out of the current situation which has become a focus of world attention.

Zanu PF broke off formal talks in 2002 after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai challenged Mugabe’s hotly-disputed victory in the presidential election.

Since then the two parties have been engaged in on-and-off informal talks.

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