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By Eric Naki

Political Editor


Mbeki may become central to peace talks in Zimbabwe

The former president may be looking to add to his legacy while adding some 'lustre' to Ramaphosa's foreign policy image.


An attempt by former President Thabo Mbeki to bring Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Nelson Chamisa, to talks is gaining momentum. Media in Zimbabwe was this week abuzz with news of Mbeki's efforts to broker peace among that country's political parties. Chamisa himself was in South Africa to lobby the Ramaphosa government to help resolve the political crisis in the neighbouring country. Chamisa expressed optimism about the need for talks. He said he was looking forward to meeting with Mbeki and that the dialogue in Zimbabwe was more urgent now than ever.…

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An attempt by former President Thabo Mbeki to bring Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Nelson Chamisa, to talks is gaining momentum.

Media in Zimbabwe was this week abuzz with news of Mbeki’s efforts to broker peace among that country’s political parties. Chamisa himself was in South Africa to lobby the Ramaphosa government to help resolve the political crisis in the neighbouring country.

Chamisa expressed optimism about the need for talks. He said he was looking forward to meeting with Mbeki and that the dialogue in Zimbabwe was more urgent now than ever.

Mbeki brokered a deal between late former president Robert Mugabe and the late former MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo said Mbeki was the right person for the job because he had done it before.

The signing of the Global Political Agreement between Zanu-PF and the MDC, and a faction led by Professor Arthur Mutambara, resulted in the formation of a government of national unity that ran from 2009 until 2013 with Tsvangirai as prime minister.

He said although Mbeki was criticised by the opposition of favouring Mugabe as a fellow struggle comrade, his mediation work would still be respected by the parties.

“Whatever deal Mbeki comes up with, it’s likely to not be easy and could only work if it will result in the Zanu-PF remaining in power. The Zimbabwean saga is not likely to be resolved unless Zanu-PF accepts there are other parties that could also govern,” Teffo said.

Initial indications were that Mbeki’s efforts might bear fruit as discussions he held separately with both Mnangagwa and the other opposition parties left many happy and optimistic. Although the MDC was not part of the initial talks, Chamisa expressed strong willingness to participate.</pš

The former president was expected back in Zimbabwe this week with terms of reference for the political dialogue he initiated.

“Mbeki is the right facilitator for this process. If he were to pull this one off, it will add to his legacy.”

Mbeki successfully facilitated for South Sudan to attain its independence from Khartoum.

It was not immediately clear if Chamisa had had audiences with Ramaphosa or Mbeki during the visit.

Ramaphosa will soon take over as chairman of the African Union.

The 2018 elections won by Zanu-PF were disputed by the MDC after the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission allegedly flouted the rules governing the elections.

The next elections are in 2023 and Chamisa believes the current crisis should be resolved before the polls.

“What needs to be done is to resolve the unresolved 2018 disputed elections so that we pave the way for any future election, otherwise we continue to have a recycling of the same old problems, a vicious cycle that has to be capped in having free and fair elections,” he said.

On Twitter on Wednesday Chamisa said: “NO Political Reforms, NO 2023. I agree with this message & I endorse it. The MDC should also disengage from rural elections & not dignify RIGGED processes! They should simply build rural structures & only defend elections in urban areas where there is fairness.”

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said the appointment of special envoys was the preserve of the president. Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, did not respond to our WhatsApp query.

Teffo said it was unlikely that Mbeki would conduct the facilitation in Zimbabwe without the consent of Ramaphosa and International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.

“There is a good rapport between Mbeki and Ramaphosa. I don’t think he would have done this without consulting them. Surely, they respected him to be able to do it,” Teffo said.

According to Teffo, Mbeki’s involvement would also help to boost Ramaphosa’s foreign policy, which he said was “wobbly”.

“Ramaphosa’s foreign policy is unclear and the work of a person of Mbeki’s calibre will put the lustre on to it,” said Teffo.

Regarding the visit by Chamisa, Ngqengelele said the Zimbabwean politician had had no meeting with Pandor, who left on Tuesday night for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

– ericn@citizen.co.za

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