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Mugabe cornered

Political Reporters

ATTEMPTS by President Mugabe to break out of the ring-fence imposed by the international community have collapsed as a series of initiatives to lessen dependence on the West and go it alo

ne have proved fruitless. At the same time efforts to restore donor confidence in Zimbabwe are making no progress.

Bids to secure soft loans and ambitious commodity deals with countries in the Far East have been conspicuously unsuccessful. There are unlikely to be any further approaches of this sort to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, analysts said this week.

“States in the Far East appear no more willing to invest money or provide credit than their Western counterparts while (Finance minister Herbert)

Murerwa has been told not to bother revisiting Washington until there is a political settlement at home,” one analyst said this week. Zimbabwe urgently needs balance-of-payments support to ease its chronic forex shortage.

The United Nations Development Programme is likely to get a thumbs down from donors despite its representative in Harare Victor Angelo batting for Zimbabwe in New York recently.

A bid to give land reform a make-over by the Utete audit committee has proved unconvincing, donors say.

“There are simply no takers,” a Western diplomat said this week.

“Zimbabwe’s future depends upon an internal settlement between Zanu PF and the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change). But national dialogue now appears to be hostage to Zanu PF’s internal rivalries.”

Southern African Development Community leaders notably failed to come to Mugabe’s rescue when he was barred from attending December’s Commonwealth summit in Abuja, a sign diplomats say that he no longer enjoys the same level of regional support as in the past.

Multi-pronged initiatives by regional leaders and church heads to find a negotiated settlement to the domestic crisis this week degenerated into confusion as the ruling Zanu PF appears paralysed by the succession crisis.

Zanu PF chairman John Nkomo and spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira on Wednesday cancelled at the last minute a meeting with bishops Sebastian Bakare, Patrick Mutume and Trevor Manhanga that was expected to provide direction on efforts to resume dialogue between Zanu PF and the opposition MDC.

Instead of showing up for the meeting, the Zanu PF leaders sent a messenger to tell the clerics they were busy. Church leaders have been trying in vain to resume meetings with Zanu PF for the past three weeks. In August they wrote a letter to Mugabe urging him to be serious about talks.

But it is understood Zanu PF leaders are too distracted by the looming succession issue to concentrate on talks they are anyway lukewarm about.

Recently a succession committee formed to gather supporters’ views on the issue was disbanded because it was fuelling divisions.

Church leaders say Mugabe recently hinted to them that he was on his way out and wanted talks but admitted the succession issue was getting in the way.

Catholic bishops met Mugabe last Wednesday to persuade him to come to the negotiating table. Their move was linked to a proposed new initiative on the Zimbabwe crisis by the Vatican. But their efforts are likely to be thwarted by internal Zanu PF feuding.

The initiative by Zanu PF’s talks-broker Patrick Chinamasa and MDC chief negotiator Welshman Ncube has also been trapped in the prevailing morass resulting from the ruling party’s internal struggle. The two had covered considerable ground on constitutional reform and fresh elections although these gains are currently being rolled back.

The South African political and church initiatives are also frozen, even though President Thabo Mbeki’s office recently insisted that plans were still on track to find a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis by June next year.

Mbeki and the Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane, who met Mugabe in March, are reportedly at loggerheads over how to tackle the issue.

Ndungane’s secretary yesterday said “he wants to go back (to Harare) but no dates have been set yet”.

With the international community insisting on national consensus on political and economic reform before they will put their hands in their pockets, Zimbabwe’s prospects are set to deteriorate as Zanu PF’s leadership concentrates on what it considers the more important struggle for political survival, that is who among them will be the next contender for president.

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