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Kansteiner warns Zim crisis could worsen

Dumisani Muleya

UNITED States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Walter Kansteiner, says the Zimbabwe crisis is now a major cause for concern to his country and needs to be tackled as a matter

of urgency.

Speaking to South Africa’s Cape Talk radio from Botswana, where he was opening a trade information centre last week, Kansteiner said the US was worried about events in Zimbabwe.

“We are quite concerned about Zimbabwe. You know there is a humanitarian crisis brewing there, there is certainly an economic crisis that is cascading further downward and ultimately it is going to come to a political crisis,” he said.

Kansteiner said the intervention by South African President Thabo Mbeki, and his counterparts Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, was welcome.

“There has to be some kind of transitional dialogue that takes place that eventually leads to the voice of the people of Zimbabwe being heard.”

Told that President Robert Mugabe was refusing to relinquish power to facilitate the restoration of democratic legitimacy, Kansteiner said he was beginning to detect some flexibility on Mugabe’s part.

“My guess is that there is more flexibility there than we realise but part of the reason I am here is to listen and learn and see what is happening.”

Kansteiner, who has been sharply critical of Mugabe over the past two years, said Washington was not interested in “regime change” in Zimbabwe but “regime legitimacy”.

Asked if the US was not aggravating the Zimbabwean crisis by tangential involvement, Kansteiner said the risk was necessary.

“I think that is a risk,” he said. “But you know the people of Zimbabwe, I believe, would like us to run that risk…with both the humanitarian and the civil liberties crisis that is unfolding there, I think demands us to speak the truth.”

On the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Kansteiner said good governance should continue to guide the African recovery programme.

He admitted that if the Zimbabwe crisis persisted, it could eventually leave Nepad dead in the water.

“Good governance is very much part of the Nepad philosophy,” he said. “And Zimbabwe is lacking good governance so it is a problem and I think that the regional leaders are starting to really engage it.”

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