Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade's suggestion that the Zimbabwean mediation process be widened beyond South African President Thabo Mbeki and his proposal to visit Harare soon for discussions with President Robert Mugabe have not been met with particular enthusiasm by the Zimbabwean government or its opposition.
Mr. Wade said Monday that more African leaders should be involved in the resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe and said he hoped to visit Harare in two weeks.
"We should have an official position about Zimbabwe, but there is no official position and this country is getting worse and worse," Agence France Presse quoted Wade as telling reporters in Dakar. "We should do something, and not say brother Mbeki please solve the problem of Zimbabwe. He cannot solve the problem alone."
Wade said a broadened engagement by African leaders in cooperation with Mr. Mbeki could facilitate a rapprochement between Zimbabwe and Britain. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared recently that he will boycott the European Union-African Union summit set for December in Lisbon is Mr. Mugabe is invited.
Sources said that while Mr. Mugabe will send Mr. Mbeki a communication expressing confidence in his mediation, he would not welcome the involvement of a broader cross-section of African leaders, as this would suggest Harare is in disarray.
Zimbabwean government sources said Harare was satisfied with the process as it has been led by Mr. Mbeki, and indicated that if Mr. Wade traveled to Harare to press for his involvement in the crisis resolution process he would not be welcome.
The Zimbabwean opposition also expressed some perplexity with Mr. Wade's offer to jump into the crisis resolution process alongside Mr. Mbeki, who received his brief to mediate in March from his peers in the Southern African Development Community.
But observers said it would not be a light matter for President Mugabe to overtly snub President Wade, who exerts a strong influence within the African Union.
South African Foreign Affairs Spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa refused to comment on Wade's criticisms of Mr. Mbeki other than to say that Pretoria has a SADC mandate.
But Wade’s initiative found support from Zimbabwean civil society leaders including National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, who said Mr. Mbeki has shown he cannot solve the crisis and charged that human rights violations have increased since mediation began, and that it has not included key stakeholders.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that for now the formation wants to give Mr. Mbeki a chance.
South African-based political analyst Glen Mpani said Mr. Wade’s intervention was ill-timed as Harare has made clear it wants the matter to remain in SADC's hands.
President Mugabe firmly rebuffed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week at the U.N. General Assembly when he proposed a U.N. humanitarian role. The country's economy is in full collapse and more than 4 million Zimbabweans are expected to need food assistance to fend off hunger by early 2008.