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Mozambique’s Chissano Voices Regret at Zimbabwe Mediation Setback

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s diplomatic snubbing of former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano is likely to further isolate Harare and expand rifts in the Southern African Development Community and African Union, observers say.

Under Western pressure for years, Mr. Mugabe has enjoyed support from other African leaders. But one diplomat at the SADC summit in Botswana this week said that South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Mauritius all want to keep pressure on Mr. Mugabe for reform because his policies are harming the region. These countries also want the United Nations to follow through to ensure the recommendations made in the report it issued on Harare’s May-July slum clearance drive will be adopted.

However, Zambia, Namibia and Malawi are siding with Mr. Mugabe, the diplomat said.

Mr. Chissano, asked to serve as African Union mediator in hoped-for talks between the Zimbabwe ruling party and its opposition, confirmed Thursday to reporters in the Mozambican capital of Maputo that Mr. Mugabe had told him in discussions at the SADC summit in Botswana this week that he was not interested in mediation.

Mr. Chissano expressed regret that his mission had come to an end in effect before it started, but said everything now depends on Harare - though he was ready to help.

Voice of America correspondent Simeao Pongoane spoke with reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe about Mr. Chissano’s briefing.

Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group issued a report this week calling for Nigeria and South Africa to assemble a team of former African presidents to try to persuade Mr. Mugabe to retire gracefully and agree to a transitional mechanism.

The ICG says the West must maintain sanctions while stepping up aid to democratic forces in Zimbabwe to strengthen civil society and develop the political culture.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of Studio 7 asked Dr. Peter Kagwanja, ICG’s director for Southern Africa, why he thinks former heads of state can get the job done.

However, another South African based analyst, Obri Mashiq, argues that such an ex-presidential panel would be no panacea for the complex crisis in Zimbabwe.

Despite the setback at the SADC summit, the Movement for Democratic Change said it still believes opening talks with the ruling party are the way to resolve the crisis.

Studio 7 evening show host Ndimyake Mwakalyele reached MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi who outlined the opposition’s stance at this juncture.

But officials of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF, are staying on message and accusing the MDC of trying to gain at the negotiating table what it failed to achieve in the March general election (which the MDC and a range of observers say was marred by voter intimidation and ballot-rigging).

Expressing this viewpoint was William Nhara, ZANU-PF district chairman for Harare, who spoke with Studio 7 reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele.

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