Zim opposition back to drawing board as Kabila takes over SADC

2009-09-07 19:01

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ZIMBABWE’S opposition MDC leaders are preparing to fly out of Kinshasa tomorrow before the closing ceremony of the SADC ordinary summit here in a sign of disappointment after it emerged their country would not be discussed at all.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, James Maridadi, clearly disappointed, claimed his party was happy that Zimbabwe was not on the agenda as the matter “deserves more attention and serious consideration”, but a party official said this was just “politics”.

Tsvangirai himself avoided journalists and rushed to his hotel room at the Grand Hotel; he was not seen outside again since the SADC opening ceremony that started shortly before midday and ended just after 3pm local time.

City Press understands that when the MDC delegation arrived here from Harare via Johannesburg on Sunday, they had hoped that SADC leaders would “at least acknowledge” that Zimbabwe’s power-sharing agreement had “all but stalled” and “show some kind of movement” on the way forward.

But when South African president Jacob Zuma read his outgoing speech as SADC chairperson and made no mention of an extra-ordinary summit on Zimbabwe, which the MDC had hoped the leaders gathered here would commit themselves to, Tsvangirai sat dejectedly and left immediately after the end of the opening session.

He left Maridadi to spin the media that they had expected Zimbabwe not to be on the agenda, but would not say when they found out. Sources here said that Zimbabwe had been on the agenda until late on Sunday night, and had been withdrawn because it would “overshadow” Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) president Joseph Kabila’s moment of glory as he ascended the chair of the regional body.

Kabila, who presides over a ruined economy and a largely dilapidated country, pulled all stops to make the occasion memorable, splashing millions on new roads, renovations of guests houses and an image campaign that saw the production of two magazines and several other promotional material.

MDC insiders said Zimbabwe had been on the agenda until Sunday night, and were surprised on Monday when it became clear the issue had been scrapped. Some sources now say an extra-ordinary summit has been penciled for either Maputo, Mozambique or Durban, South Africa, in three weeks’ time.

Zuma arrived here on Sunday night and cancelled a scheduled press briefing with South African media at his guest house opposite African Union House, where the summit is taking place until Tuesday night, because he had to meet Kabila before a heads of state dinner later that evening.

But as City Press reported on Sunday, the absence of SADC-appointed mediator Thabo Mbeki from the SA delegation had hinted the Zimbabwe issue would not get any meaningful attention.

When news of Mbeki’s no-show got to Arthur Mutambara, leader of the other MDC faction, he decided not to fly to Kinshasa from Johannesburg, and instead asked his top official, Welshman Ncube, already here, to take care of business.

But Tsvangirai had already booked his flight to Kinshasa, hoping for the best.

Joachim Chissano, mediator in the Madagascar crisis, is here.

A top South African official told City Press today that Pretoria wanted the Zimbabwe matter on the agenda. “We have issues we want to raise on Zimbabwe, because we know and fear that if we do not, we are going back to square one and Zimbabwe remains our problem,” he said, suggesting that Pretoria was tired with the crisis dragging on.

Said another official; “President Zuma would be a happier man handing over the chairmanship with the Zimbabwe crisis solved, but he had not enough time to do much on the problem.”

South Africa has had three chairmen during its 12 months of chairpersonship—Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and now Zuma.

In his speech Zuma noted that Kgalema and himself had chaired SADC for “a short period” but had to deal “with a number of challenges”. “And I have also had the honour of  presiding just a few months before handing over to the DRC,” added Zuma.

He said Mbeki chaired SADC “for a longer period”.

A diplomat here decoded this to mean that Zuma hoped he had as much time as Mbeki to solve the Zimbabwe crisis. “He seems regretful that South Africa had three presidents who presided over the Zimbabwe issue, but still didn’t end the crisis. And it’s a fair thing to say.”


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