PRESSURE is mounting for a negotiated political settlement in Zimbabwe to avoid prolonging the current crisis worsened by recent disputed elections and the looming presidential election run-off.
Diplomatic sources said the United Nations, the African Union and Southern African Development Community (Sadc) leaders are piling pressure on President Robert Mugabe and his rival, Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, to find ways of breaking the impasse. Sources said as a result there were confidential negotiations going on between Zanu PF and the MDC.
Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan yesterday told CNN Zimbabweâ€™s political parties and their leaders must be prepared for a negotiated settlement even after the run-off.
This would be aimed at the formation of a government of national unity.
“There is concern that whatever the outcome of the election, there is need for dialogue, there is need for mediation between the two groups regardless of who wins,” Annan said.
He said Tsvangirai must draw on the experience of Mugabeâ€™s defeated Zanu PF if he is to steer Zimbabwe safely out of crisis.
South African President Thabo Mbeki is also actively engaged on the issue in a bid to find a negotiated settlement although the chances for such a solution are fading because of the approaching June 27 run-off.
This week alone Mbeki sent two different envoys to Harare to deal with run-off issues and a possible resolution of the crisis after the poll. South African Local Government minister Sydney Mufamadi, Mbekiâ€™s point man on the Zimbabwe mediation, came in on Monday to meet Mugabe. Mbekiâ€™s Foreign Affairs Director-General Ayanda Ntsaluba was in the country yesterday for further discussions.
Mbeki has complained about alleged interference in his mediation by the US and UK who are also heavily engaged on the issue. Mbeki this week wrote to US President George Bush to register his complaint. It was an indignant letter full of exclamation marks, reports suggest.
Ntsaluba was involved in the arrangement of talks between Zanu PF and the MDC last year. The talks collapsed in February after Mugabe refused to adopt a new constitution before the March 29 elections and postpone the polls.
There are fears that whoever wins there would be unrest in the country because the result is almost certain to be disputed. Already the run-off is beset by controversy, tarnishing the electoral process and possibly the outcome.
Independent MP Jonathan Moyo two weeks ago filed papers in court, arguing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) acted â€œunlawfullyâ€ in delaying and setting the date of the run-off. He said ZEC had no such powers and had usurped the functions of parliament in its actions.
However, the matter is now most likely to be heard without challenge because the respondents have failed to file their opposing papers in time.Â
The MDC has also written to ZEC, saying it has no confidence that it could competently organise the run-off after a disastrous handling of the March 29 elections. ZEC failed to release presidential poll results for more than a month. This almost guarantees that the run-off result will be disputed.
By Dumisani Muleya