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Mugabe pushes to meet Blair

Dumisani Muleya

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is pushing for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to resolve the current crisis and has roped in former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa to act as mediator.

Diplomatic sources said yesterday Mugabe has bl

ocked United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan from visiting Harare because he wanted to engage Blair whom he believes holds the key to persuading the international community to rescue him from a political and economic quagmire.

Mkapa, who is close to Mugabe and Blair, has been playing the role of intermediary for the past couple of months.

Recently he met Mugabe in Harare and Blair in the United States for confidence-building consultations to pave way for a possible meeting between them.

Mugabe has said he wants to “build bridges” with Blair.

Mkapa met Mugabe at the Zanu PF headquarters early last month on his way to Latin America after a brief stop-over in Harare. The two leaders also met in Harare on October 24 last year.

Mugabe met current Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete, who is said to be impatient with the Zimbabwe impasse, on April 27 in Bulawayo during the Trade Fair.

Sources said Mkapa met with Blair after meeting Mugabe. Mkapa sat on Blair’s Africa Commission.

Information minister Tichoana Jokonya and Tanzanian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Retired Brigadier-General Hashim Mbita were involved in the initiative, sources said.

It is understood Zimbabwean and British embassy officials had also met to find common ground for a potential Mugabe/Blair summit.

As reported in this paper on February 24, Mugabe is under pressure from his political and security advisors to engage Blair on the national crisis.

But sources said Blair set clear conditions for meeting Mugabe. They said he first wants Mugabe to give a firm timetable for his departure, guarantees of political and economic reforms, including constitutional review, repeal of repressive laws, restoration of the rule of law and an end to farm invasions before Zimbabwe can be rehabilitated.
Sources said South African President Thabo Mbeki’s visit to London this week was part of the initiative. Prior to his visit, Mbeki had earlier  dispatched his Intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils to meet British officials to discuss the Zimbabwean crisis, it was heard.

Blair and Mbeki discussed the Zimbabwe situation this week following similar talks in February when they met at Didimala Game Lodge near Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, during their Progressive Governance summit.

The two have had several meetings in the past about Zimbabwe. Mbeki met with Mkapa last September.

There are at least three diplomatic processes at the moment — including the Annan, Mkapa and churches initiative — to crack the Zimbabwean problem which is now firmly on the global agenda.

A group of church leaders met Mugabe yesterday in a bid to find a solution to the situation. The church leaders discussed a wide range of issues affecting the country in a bid to persuade Mugabe to quit.

At another level, sources said Mbeki has also renewed his search for a solution in Zimbabwe after temporarily disengaging from the situation through Southern African Development Community and African Union (AU) structures.

Mugabe last year rejected former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, his close friend, as the AU envoy on Zimbabwe.

Efforts to get comment from authorities were unsuccessful yesterday.

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