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South Africa's Mbeki To Brief Southern African Peers On Zimbabwe Mediation

South African President Thabo Mbeki will brief leaders of the Southern African Development Community on the troubled state of Zimbabwe crisis talks on the margins of an African Union summit opening Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

South African Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told VOA that Mbeki, who left for the summit on Wednesday, would report to his SADC counterparts. Mamoepa declined to provide further details on the briefing to SADC, which gave Mr. Mbeki his mediation brief in March 2007 following a surge in political violence in Zimbabwe.

Ten months later, the negotiations he mediated are deadlocked and though by most to have reached a dead end following President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to compromise on holding elections in March and on adopting a new constitution before elections.

Secretary General Welshman Ncube of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Arthur Mutambara told VOA that his party had been urging Mr. Mbeki for some time to refer the matter to SADC because the opposition sees Mr. Mugabe’s recent call for elections on March 29, among other developments, as evidence that the ruling party has effectively abandoned the talks.

But SADC sources told VOA the body is divided as to whether it should assume a wider role in the Zimbabwe crisis. They said countries including Botswana, Tanzania, Mauritius and Zambia want to pressure Mr. Mugabe for reforms. Mindful of the death toll in Kenya following its elections, they want to avoid another contested election which could usher in a period of mounting political instability in Zimbabwe.

But Angola, Swaziland and Namibia are said to hold that Mr. Mugabe has reformed enough for now as his government amended five key laws under the auspices of the Pretoria talks, and that further reforms can come after the March elections.

Researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mbeki’s anticipated briefing to SADC is not only in order but is long overdue.

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