Mbeki: Mugabe will go peacefully

Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, has said he believed Robert Mugabe, his Zimbabwean counterpart, would step down peacefully at some point.

Mbeki: Mugabe will go peacefully

ThaboMbeki, the South African president, has said he believed Robert Mugabe,his Zimbabwean counterpart, would step down peacefully at some point.

"Ithink so. Yes, sure," Mbeki told Tuesday's Financial Times newspaper. "You see, President Mugabeand the leadership of [the ruling] Zanu-PF believe they are running ademocratic country."

 

Strikingan optimistic note, Mbeki said the chief challenge for the region was to ensureZimbabwehas free and fair elections next year.

The SouthAfrican leader said he has started mediating between the Zimbabwean governmentand the opposition to resolve the political standoff in the country.

 

TheSouthern African Development Community (SADC) had asked Mbeki last week tospearhead efforts to resolve the crisis, whichhas deepened since Mugabe's violent crackdown on political opponents last month.

'Limitedrole'

Mbeki dismissedsuggestions that Zimbabwe'sneighbours could force change in the country. "We don't have a bigstick," he said.

He said ajoint approach by African leaders could pave the way to a settlement.

Mbeki saidhis office had already been in contact with both factions of theopposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Zanu-PF to draw up anegotiating framework for next year's elections, in which Mugabe has alreadybeen endorsed as the Zanu-PF candidate. 

Mbekisaid the talks would probably focus on MDC demands for legal and electoralreforms, including the strict media and security laws which critics say Mugabehas used to entrench his power in the country.

"Iam quite clear from previous interactions with the MDC we have had they willraise questions ... like legislation affecting the media, legislation aboutholding of public meetings. 

"Wewill then engage Zanu-PF, saying it is necessary to respond to all of these. Wemay very well come to a stage later when they will have to sit together toagree ... [on] what they will do to create a climate conducive to free and fairelections."

Lukewarmstrike

Atwo-day national strike called by Zimbabwe unions to press for higherpay got under way on Tuesday, but to little effect.

Banks, offices and shops were open in capital Harare on Tuesday. Businesses were alsoreported to be operating normally in Bulawayo,the country's second-largest city.

TheZimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) had called the strike to press for aminimum workers' wage of a million Zimbabwe dollars ($4,000 on theofficial market but worth $50 on the black market), an end to the country'seconomic meltdown and for better access to Aids drugs.

Journalists whodrove around Harare'sindustrial areas early on Tuesday found many firms operating as usual, and thenormal hordes of job seekers waiting outside factory gates seeking employmentin an economy already in freefall.

Union appeal

ZCTUofficials were not immediately available for comment, but Lovemore Matombo, theunion president, said he hoped workers would risk open defiance to protestagainst an economic crisis in which inflation has surged to 1,700 per cent,unemployment has reached more than 80 per cent and food and fuel shortagesare frequent.

"Weare quite aware that the Zimbabwean authorities will never treat us with kidgloves," he told SABC radio in neighbouring South Africa.

"Butwe are saying the suffering we are going through is even worse than the brokenbones that are likely to come our way in the next two days."

Analystssay the ZCTU's calls for strikes over labour and social issues in recent yearshave largely failed due to government intimidation and workers' fears of losingtheir jobs.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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