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Southern African Summit Might Yet Look at Mkapa Mediation in Zimbabwe

Sources say heads of state of the Southern African Development Community meeting in Maseru, Lesotho, may take up Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's choice of former president Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania as a mediator in the country's crisis.

SADC's outgoing chairman, President Festus Mogae of Botswana, said however that the summit’s main focus is integration of the region’s economies. It is also looking at items such as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, poverty alleviation, and AIDS.

Lesotho Finance Minister Timothy Thahane, chairman of SADC's council of ministers, said that while Mkapa's role is not on the agenda it could be tabled Friday a closed-door session. A Zimbabwean Foreign Ministry official who declined to be named said Mr. Mugabe has been lobbying SADC leaders to give Mkapa their endorsement.

Mr Mugabe and South African leader Thabo Mbeki have stated that they want Mkapa to work under SADC’s auspices - a position bolstered by the elevation of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete to the chairmanship of SADC’s influential Organ on Politics, Defense and Security. Seen as an architect of the Mkapa initiative, Kikwete indicated in an interview with VOA in Abuja, Nigeria, that he wants to mediate in the region.

For a view on why Zimbabwe’s crisis is not on the SADC summit agenda, Blessing Zulu turned to South African-based political analyst Brian Raftopolous.

Elsewhere, Zimbabwean civic activists who traveled to Lesotho to lobby the SADC summit to press Harare for reforms returned empty handed amid reports of internal bickering and allegations of official sabotage. Though more than a dozen in number, the nongovernmental organizations could not get SADC to put Zimbabwe on its agenda or take action on the communiqué it conveyed to the summiteers.

The NGO document voiced concern at the “lack of commitment by national leaders to fully democratic governance” in the region. Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked Jay Jay Sibanda, president of the South African-based Concerned Zimbabweans Abroad, what went wrong in Maseru.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...