President Robert Mugabe’s effort to engage Britain diplomatically with ex-president Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania as a mediator appears to be losing momentum, having elicited a yawn from London and failed to win the backing of regional leaders.
Mr. Mugabe's July proposal to revisit the vexed question of land reform in discussions with Britain was not met with much enthusiasm in London. Even the Southern African Development Community seemed reluctant when its heads of state met in summit last week to sign onto the Mkapa initiative with an institutional endorsement.
Mr. Mugabe asked his SADC peers to throw their collective weight behind the Mkapa demarche, but sources privy to summit discussions said his fellow heads of state said they would only back it when all parties were agreed on the agenda.
Some of the Southern African leaders went further and told President Mugabe that his country's crisis was discouraging foreign investment in the subregion and weighing on their economies in other ways, in response to which he left the summit in a huff.
SADC chairman and Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili advised against reading too much into the departure, though, noting Mr. Mugabe is “not a young man.” Mr. Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba cited “pressing" business in Harare.
Britain, meanwhile, has even more clearly signaled that it is not very interested in talks with Mkapa. First Secretary Gillian Dare of the British Embassy in Harare said London is more interested in direct talks with Harare than in revisiting past differences.
Dare told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Foreign Office has yet to be officially notified by anyone of Mkapa’s mediation brief.
Pretoria, South Africa, based analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group offered an analytical view of the faltering Mkapa initiative.