Zimbabwean civil society groups that hoped to stage a demonstration Wednesday on the margins of a summit of the Southern African Development Community in Maseru, Lesotho, scuttled scuttle the protest when summit organizers said they would refuse to pass a communique from the activists to heads of state if the protest went ahead.
Activists demanding wide-ranging democratic reforms in Zimbabwe were disappointed as well to learn that former president Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, who President Robert Mugabe has named to a mediating role in the country’s crisis, would not be attending the summit and that SADC heads of state were no longer expected to consider an endorsement of Mkapa’s mission, as earlier reports suggested.
Mugabe has asked Mkapa to be an intermediary in talks proposed with Britain aimed at resolving differences over Zimbabwean land reform and ending Western sanctions.
But British officials have said Harare needs to open a domestic dialogue, not bilateral diplomacy. Activists in Maseru hoped to be able to urge Mkapa to turn his mediation in that direction – but learned Harare had not raised the issue of his mediation to SADC, so the heads of state were not likely to officially discuss or endorse Mkapa's role.
But heads of state including South African President Thabo Mbeki are expected to press for closed-door talks on Mkapa's mediation, and conditions in Zimbabwe.
Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe heard more from Pastor Ray Motsi, spokesman for the Christian Alliance church humanitarian group that has played a prominent role in bringing Zimbabwe’s fractured opposition together.