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Zimbabwe Seen Topping Southern African Regional Summit Agenda

  • Benedict Nhlapho

Foreign ministers of the Southern African Development Community launched discussions on Thursday in Johannesburg amid speculation the crisis in Zimbabwe will top the SADC summit agenda in the light of recent political developments.

South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma addressed the ministers at the Sandton Convention Center, saying SADC is pleased with the progress achieved to date in resolving the crisis. South African President Thabo Mbeki is mediator for SADC in the power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition.

Political analyst Oliver Saasa told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that actions by President Mugabe and his government suggest his long-ruling ZANU-PF party is not negotiating in good faith, which could spell trouble for the region and lead to some divisions within the summit starting in earnest on Saturday.

Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations headed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions were organizing demonstrations against the expected presence of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and King Mswati of Swaziland at the summit, characterizing them as illegitimate rulers who have committed or ordered human rights abuses.

Sources in Johannesburg said Zimbabwean NGO members were trickling into the city to join their South African-based counterparts.

Zimbabwean organizations expected to join the protests include the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Trade unionists from Swaziland are expected to turn out in force as well.

Spokesman Patrick Craven of COSATU told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Saturday’s event is likely to be more effective because international attention has been focused on the Zimbabwean crisis since the country's March 29 elections.

Civil society organizations from Zimbabwe and South Africa met Thursday in Johannesburg for a one-day policy colloquium examining what needs to be done to manage transition in Zimbabwe amid expectations power-sharing talks will result in a deal.

Correspondent Benedict Nhlapho had more from Johannesburg.

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

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