FORMER Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa turned down a mediation role to resolve the so-called bilateral dispute between Britain and Zimbabwe, contrary
to President Robert Mugabe’s claims that he had agreed to perform the task, it has now emerged.
Senior diplomats said yesterday this could well mean Mugabe and United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan misled the world on the Mkapa issue, although Annan reportedly relied on Mugabe’s briefing.
However, sources said Mkapa stands ready to bring a retirement package to Mugabe now if the international community comes up with a serious offer.
Sources said although Mkapa was approached, he declined the role. He cited two reasons.
“First, he is too busy with many things, including the restructuring of his political party in Tanzania and various other international commitments,” a senior diplomat said.
“Second, he would not be considered a neutral facilitator, especially by the British.”
Diplomatic sources said Mkapa told Sadc colleagues that he had long believed that the international community, and the British in particular, had not played fair with Mugabe because “they talk about democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe, but this is just a smokescreen for a policy of regime change”.
“Mkapa thinks all the international community has offered Mugabe so far are sanctions and isolation,” a diplomat close to the talks said. “He just wants constructive engagement based on a realistic approach that will be acceptable to Mugabe, Zimbabweans and the international community. He thinks a balance can be achieved.”