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Zimbabwe Civic Leaders Meet With South African Crisis Mediators

Top South African officials mediating talks between Zimbabwe’s ruling party and its opposition met Tuesday in Pretoria with Zimbabwe civil society representatives who had been pressuring President Thabo Mbeki for a role in the crisis talks.

Pretoria invited the delegation of civic leaders ahead of the summit of Southern African Development Community heads of state whose meeting opens on Thursday.

Mr. Mbeki received a mandate from SADC in March to “facilitate dialogue” between the political adversaries in Zimbabwe, an assignment widely interpreted as mediation though Pretoria is now emphasizing that Mr. Mbeki's role is one of “facilitation.”

The Zimbabwean activists met with officials headed by South African Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, who has been a key player in the talks between delegates of the ruling ZANU-PF party and both factions of the divided Movement for Democratic Change. He was backed by Frank Chikane, director general in the South African presidency, and Mojanku Gumbi, Mbeki’s legal adviser.

Director Arnold Tsunga of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, part of the Zimbabwe civic delegation, told reporter Blessing Zulu that he and his associates told the South Africans that the crisis in Harare is one of bad governance.

Meanwhile, a top South African official reiterated on Monday that Pretoria will not set up refugee camps for thousands of Zimbabweans streaming over the border as their home economy crumbles, saying they seek not political asylum but economic relief.

Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nquakula called the human wave “economic migrants” who do not want to be refugees but only want to buy food. She said setting up refugee camps in South Africa would violate United Nations regulations.

Cape Town-based independent political analyst Hermann Hanekom reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that many Zimbabweans entering South Africa economic refugees who do not fit into a category protected by the UN.

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