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Mbeki sees end to Zimbabwe crisis

Dumisani Muleya

SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki says a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis will be found soon. He said President Robert Mugabe has promised fundamental reforms of state i

nstitutions, including the cabinet.

Mbeki said on Tuesday night in Toronto, Canada, that talks between the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would soon reverse the deepening crisis in the country.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Mbeki said a solution was in the offing because both parties realised the depth of the country’s crisis.

“They’ve been talking to each other. They’re talking to each other now. My sense is that it won’t take that long (before an agreement is reached),” he said.

“I think the ruling party and the opposition understand … the depth of the economic crisis and the impact on the lives of the people. Both sides are very, very sensitive to it. … Nobody is dragging their feet. They will move with some speed.”

Mbeki said it was common cause that Zimbabwe was in a deep crisis and a lot of reconstruction work was needed.

“There’s a major challenge,” Mbeki told journalists at a news conference on Monday in Ottawa during his three-day state visit to Canada.

“The economy is in a serious crisis. There’s lots of work that needs to be done with regard to the reconstruction of the economy.”

Chretien, who described Mbeki as “one of the great leaders I’ve known in my career”, said the South African president was working to create a coalition government in Zimbabwe. Chretien said “there will be an agreement, he thinks, soon”.

Reports that Mbeki was working on a government of national unity in Zimbabwe came amidst speculation that Mugabe might offer some cabinet posts to the MDC in his forthcoming reshuffle.

Mugabe last week said he would revamp state institutions, including cabinet. He launched the reforms this week, starting with the appointment of a new central bank governor and provincial governors. Changes are also expected in the military.

MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube dismissed Mbeki’s comments saying “it’s nothing new”.

“Those were the same statements which he made in July when (US President) George Bush visited South Africa. There is nothing new, we have heard that before,” Ncube said.

“We don’t see any prospects of a negotiated settlement. Zanu PF is still continuing with the wicked things it has always done – human rights abuses, manipulation of elections, and repression are worsening.”

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