PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday tried to wriggle off the hook of international diplomacy on the eve of a critical meeting tomorrow with United Nations
secretary-general Kofi Annan and South African President Thabo Mbeki in Banjul, the Gambia, claiming Zimbabwe did not need to be rescued from the current crisis.
Mugabe’s meeting with Annan, which Harare has been trying to evade, is widely seen as an escalation of UN involvement in Zimbabwe which could end up with the country being placed on the agenda of the Security Council of the world body. Government is now anxious to avoid Security Council measures.
Annan, who has confirmed he would like to meet Mugabe on the sidelines of the African Union summit tomorrow, and Mbeki are pushing for a resolution of Zimbabwe’s protracted political and economic crisis.
South African deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad this week said Mbeki wanted to be part of the meeting. Annan has said it was necessary to take action to save Zimbabwe from “total collapse”. Mbeki has said he was awaiting the outcome of the Annan initiative on Zimbabwe.
The Annan plan is part of wider diplomatic efforts — which include initiatives by Mbeki, Benjamin Mkapa, churches, and opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai — designed to rescue Zimbabwe.
However, Mugabe tried yesterday to get out of the tight diplomatic spot by firing warning shots at Annan, saying such efforts were unacceptable.
“Lately, we have heard about so many so-called ‘initiatives’ to rescue Zimbabwe. You would think we are about to perish. We tell the world from this sacred (Heroes) Acre that Zimbabwe is not about to die, in fact will not die ever,” Mugabe told mourners in Harare gathered at the burial of former Information minister Tichoana Jokonya who died on Saturday.
Mugabe claimed that countries which depended on Zimbabwe were now trying to rescue it.
“Zimbabwe has no saviours outside of its own people. Is it not ironic that nations that are sustained by and depend on resources from our country dare talk about ‘saving us’? Who is saving who, we ask?”
He said Zimbabwe had helped Mozambique and South Africa in times of difficulty.
Mugabe said while Zimbabwe did not need foreign nations’ intervention to sort out the current political impasse and economic problems, it needed their money. Sources said Mugabe would try to hide the issue of sanctions — which even if he said before were not working — yesterday admitted they were biting.
His remarks were widely seen as an attempt to duck pressure exerted on him to resolve the current situation. Annan has said he would want to engage Mugabe on the situation in Zimbabwe. Harare has been trying to invite the UN boss on an Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle whitewash mission. Annan has refused, however, insisting UN agencies must address the consequences of Operation Murambatsvina.
Efforts by Mugabe’s isolationist spokesmen to say Annan’s invitation to Harare had expired and was therefore now stale had not been taken seriously in New York.