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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Lobbies Regional Leaders to Stave Off Summit Reform Call

Southern African liberation movement leaders met in Namibia to discuss ways of consolidating the gains of the struggle and how to rebuff "persistent attempts by the West to meddle in Africa's internal affairs"

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was in Namibia on Thursday to meet with leaders and senior officials of Southern African liberation parties now in power, lobbying to stave off reforms likely to be proposed by Harare mediator and South African President Jacob Zuma at the regional summit coming up next week in Luanda, Angola.

Mr. Mugabe met late Wednesday with his Namibian counterpart, Hifikipunye Pohamba, at Namibia's State House ahead of a gathering that kicked off Thursday. He was to meet Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete on Thursday evening, sources said.

Sources said Mr. Mugabe will also meet senior delegates of other liberation parties such as FRELIMO in Mozambique, Namibia’s SWAPO, the MPLA of Angola, South Africa’s African National Congress, UNIP of Zambia and Chama Cha Mapenduzi of Tanzania.

The movements are discussing ways of consolidating gains of the liberation struggle as well as how to “confront the challenges facing the region in the wake of persistent attempts by the West to meddle in Africa's internal affairs.”

An advance team sent by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF, led by its youth league, said the West is using SADC as a mechanism to effect regime change in Harare. ZANU-PF officials pointed to the call for reform of Zimbabwe's military and other security branches, sought by the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, as evidence.

SADC regional leaders are likely to press ZANU-PF to introduce security sector reforms and to accept postponement of elections until 2012, among other key issues.

Hardliners in ZANU-PF led by strategist and former information minister Jonathan Moyo are still pushing for elections this year. They say enemies of Zimbabwe are using SADC to delay elections to make it more difficult for Mr. Mugabe, 87, to seek re-election.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that elections must be held this year. International Affairs Secretary Jameson Timba of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said SADC leaders must press Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF for critical reforms without delay.

Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said Mr Mugabe’s lobbying of his peers in the upper ranks of the regional liberation movement is unlikely to deflect pressure for reform.