Progress or ‘false dawn’?

2008-01-17 00:00

Cape Town — President Thabo Mbeki’s assurances to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern that progress in resolving the Zimbabwe impasse is imminent could be “yet another false dawn”, Democratic Alliance Foreign Affairs spokesman Tony Leon warned here yesterday.

In a statement following a meeting between Mbeki and Ahern on Tuesday, Leon said that evidence from Mbeki’s past handling of the Zimbabwe crisis reveals that his assurances could be false.

Following the meeting between the two leaders, Ahern voiced his hope that the political crisis in Zimbabwe is coming to an end and that a breakthrough in negotiations between the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change may be reached soon, paving the way for elections. But, Leon warned, Mbeki’s assurances to Ahern are the latest in a “long catalogue of previous assurances”.

Leon said that a glaring omission by Mbeki is that he does not appear to address the fact that the constitutional changes agreed to by both sides are only likely to take effect after elections are held in Zimbabwe this year.

“Therefore any elections taking place this year would do so in a climate that is arguably far worse than when the 2002 and 2005 elections were held. Both these elections were slammed by the international observer community and numerous instances of the ruthless exercise of state power were identified.

“If however [Mbeki] has brokered a meaningful breakthrough to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe, on a sustainable basis, then he will have performed a great service to the region and the wider world,” Leon concluded.

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