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Zimbabwe Ruling Party Could Foil South African Mediation, Analysts Caution

In the two weeks following the Southern African Development Community summit that appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki mediator of the Zimbabwe crisis, the headlines have been dominated by news of the Harare government's crackdown on political and civic opponents rather than peace overtures and discussions.

Many analysts express skepticism as to Mr. Mbeki's chances of success based on the results to date of his approach of "quiet diplomacy" with President Robert Mugabe, but say they intend to give the South African leader the benefit of the doubt - for now.

One argument in favor of more decisive action by Mr. Mbeki, they say, is that the crisis in Zimbabwe has become a more apparent liability for South Africa, which has seen a key export market shrivel while a wave of Zimbabwean emigrants floods south.

But analysts warn that Mr. Mbeki could face many pitfalls in dealing with Harare and Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party which is loath to relinquish power, and that if he fails it is likely be because of a lack of commitment by the ZANU-PF leadership.

Despite reports that top figures in the ruling party were anxious to see Mr. Mugabe step down, ZANU-PF endorsed him as its presidential candidate in March 2008.

Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought the views of two Zimbabwe-watchers about the possible outcomes to Mr. Mbeki's mediation: Glen Mpani, a student of democratic governance at the University of Capetown, South Africa, and Brian Kagoro, a Nairobi-based human rights lawyer and activist.

Mpani said Mr. Mugabe and his party are likely to resist Mr. Mbeki's mediation.

For more stories from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...