PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) negotiators have rejected a plan by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to intervene in
the country’s crisis by engaging Britain.
Wade left Harare yesterday after closed talks with Mugabe and MDC negotiators Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti on Wednesday. Wade suggested that a five-member committee of African leaders be appointed to “assist in the normalisation of relations between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom”.
However, Mugabe and the MDC rejected the plan for different reasons. Mugabe refused to accept the offer, saying it would create “unhelpful parallel initiatives” outside Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc)’s own process. Sadc mandated South African President Thabo Mbeki to deal with Zimbabwe. Wade said Mbeki alone could not handle the issue.
The MDC rejected Wade’s plan because it would divert attention from serious issues currently under discussion to “red-herrings” on the British and anti-imperialist mantras. “We turned down his plan because it would distract our focus from serious issues we are currently dealing with,” an MDC official said.
This came as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni entered the fray in a bid to crack the impasse from another angle. Museveni’s spokesman confirmed after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala last weekend his boss would now be involved in Zimbabwe.
Tamale Mirundi, Museveni’s spokesman, said Brown confirmed that he was prepared to help rehabilitate Zimbabwe if Mugabe puts his house in order.
It also follows the resumption of talks between Zanu PF and the MDC who are racing against a new early December deadline. Mbeki was in Harare last week to pressure Mugabe and the MDC to conclude the talks before Zanu PF’s congress and his ruling ANC’s conference in mid-December.
Mbeki was heavily defeated in nominations for his party’s presidency by his buccaneering rival Jacob Zuma last weekend, sparking fears among the negotiators that this might undermine his role if he eventually loses in December.
Mugabe is also under intense pressure on the EU-Africa summit front where it has been suggested by the Portuguese that even if invited, they would be happy if he doesn’t attend because his presence would be disruptive.
Already British premier Gordon Brown and Mirek Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, have confirmed their boycott in protest at Mugabe’s invitation. African leaders have threatened to boycott if Mugabe is barred.
However, Nigerian President Mussa Yar’Adua has broken ranks with other African leaders, saying at a meeting in Wiesbaden, Germany: “I want to emphasise that what is happening in Zimbabwe is not in conformity with the rule of law. I do not subscribe to this.”
Sources said Zanu PF and the MDC are now meeting “everyday” to complete the talks, although fresh hurdles have emerged.
“We have been meeting virtually everyday since President Mbeki came here (last week). There is now war at the negotiating table, but both parties remain committed to the talks,” a reliable source said. “We are now at a sensitive stage and negotiations are now very delicate.”
The sources said the debate is focusing on sanctions, land, demilitarisation of state institutions, use of militias, abuse of state aid and traditional chiefs and hostile political rhetoric. These issues fall under the political climate, the last item on the agenda.