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Southern African Summit Leaves Zimbabwe Opposition Disenchanted

Members of Zimbabwe's political and civic opposition expressed disappointment and disenchantment Friday following a Southern African Development Community summit Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, that mainly served to strengthen the position of President Robert Mugabe who had been expected to feel the sting of regional criticism.

Criticism from some regional leaders in the days leading up to the summit had raised expectations within both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change. Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa had publicly compared Zimbabwe to a "sinking Titanic,' while his foreign minister declared that the region could no longer remain silent.

In the event, the summit named South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate the Zimbabwean crisis - a role he has effectively held in any case since 2003 when U.S. President George Bush asked him to involve himself - and urged dialogue, while comforting Mr. Mugabe's position by urging Western sanctions be lifted.

The summit communique alluded to Zimbabwe's "free, fair and democratic presidential elections" in 2002, which the opposition has long maintained were marred by fraud.

So it was not surprising that Zimbabwe's opposition felt severely let down.

International Relations Secretary Eliphas Mukonoweshuro of the MDC faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai told Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the SADC summit did not address the crisis honestly or adequately.

Deputy Secretary General Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of the MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara said the summit had not left Mr. Mugabe entirely unscathed.

Observers questioned whether Mr. Mbeki could effectively end the political impasse in Zimbabwe, despite the confidence in his abilities expressed by SADC leaders, noting that he had tackled the Zimbabwe crisis on previous occasions without success.

Civil society activists Dewa Mavhinga, a human rights lawyer, and David Chimhini, director of the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust, offered their views. Chimhini said he wouldn't rule out a breakthrough – but that pressure was building for results.

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