By Dumisani Muleya
SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki is expected to refocus his attention on the Zimbabwe crisis following his ruling African National Congress (A
NC)’s landslide victory in the general election last week.
Official sources say Mbeki – who has promised to resolve the Zimbabwe situation by June – has invited President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to his inauguration on Tuesday.
A source in Pretoria said Mbeki was likely to hold talks with Mugabe and the MDC leaders, who will be represented by party vice-president Gibson Sibanda and perhaps secretary-general Welshman Ncube, on the issue of inter-party dialogue.
“President Mbeki has invited Mugabe and the MDC to his inauguration to have an opportunity to interact with them and find out about the situation in Zimbabwe,” the source said.
“You will remember he was in Harare in December where he met Mugabe and the MDC leader (Morgan Tsvangirai) concerning the issue of talks. This could be another chance for him to review the situation with them.”
Tsvangirai yesterday confirmed that his party had been invited and Sibanda would represent it at Mbeki’s second five-year term inauguration after the ANC won the third democratic election since 1994 by a massive 70%.
Mbeki’s spokesman Bheki Khumalo said yesterday Mugabe had been invited and “it was possible” that the MDC would be present.
Mbeki visited Harare in December to push for talks between the ruling Zanu PF and the MDC. Last month he sent a team of his Presidential Support Unit to the country to assess the situation with regard to dialogue.
Recently Mbeki invited Zanu PF head of the talks delegation Patrick Chinamasa and MDC chief negotiator Ncube for meetings in Pretoria. He met the two delegations separately and urged them to engage in formal talks.
Earlier in January during a visit to South Africa by German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Mbeki said Zanu PF had agreed to talk to the MDC.
But Mugabe has lately, including last Sunday, insisted that the opposition should first stop campaigning for sanctions and sever its “umbilical cord” with its purported Western backers before talks.
“We disagree with the MDC on that. Are they Africans in outlook, are they Africans in political persuasion?” Mugabe asked on Sunday during his 24th Independence anniversary address. “Do they want Zimbabwean solutions to Zimbabwean problems?”
Reacting to Mugabe’s remarks, Tsvangirai said yesterday that his party had always stated clearly that it would not entertain conditional dialogue.
“Mugabe must realise that the solutions to this political and economic crisis must transcend narrow party political lines,” he said.