‘Shut up, Mugabe, stop talking nonsense’

2011-04-09 15:29

A Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika summit in Zambia last week could well have marked the lowest point in relations between President Robert Mugabe and the regional body.

SADC, which in the past has copped-out on Mugabe, took a surprisingly tougher stance at the summit against the 87-year-old leader, upping pressure on him to end resurgent ­violence, intimidation and the arrest of opposition political figures.

President Rupiah Banda of Zambia set a firm tone at the official opening of the summit, with an indirect warning to Mugabe to stop committing human rights abuses. Banda later on allegedly told Mugabe to “shut up and stop talking nonsense” when challenged to explain the ongoing crackdowns against the opposition in the country.

At a press conference in Bulawayo, Welshman Ncube, leader of a splinter Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, told journalists: “Indeed, President Mugabe’s response was: ‘President Banda, I am alarmed by this assessment’.

“Those were his exact words and they demonstrate the ­extent to which the troika has spoken bluntly.”

Mugabe has never been shy to pull his country out of organisations that have posed a challenge to his rule, as he did in 2003, when he pulled out of the Commonwealth over human rights violations, and last year from the SADC Tribunal over a challenge to Zanu-PF farm seizures.

But political observers point out that a pull-out from the SADC is unlikely as the body has given Mugabe the legitimacy he has to rule.

And as President Jacob Zuma’s mediation team jetted into Harare this week to step up negotiations with political parties, in a show of support to SADC’s call for an end to violence, 60 riot police violently broke up a memorial service at Warren Hills cemetery, firing teargas at people who were being ­addressed by Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of MDC-Tsvangirai.

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