Former South African president Thabo Mbeki is in Zimbabwe where he is holding meetings with various political stakeholders, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, several other politicians and civic society activists in an effort to find a lasting solution to the current social, economic and political crisis gripping the southern African nation.
Mbeki’s visit, widely seen by observers as a precursor to possible talks between Zanu PF and the main opposition MDC party, appears to have the blessings of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
President Emmerson Mnangagwa says Mbeki’s visit was long overdue as he expected him to visit Zimbabwe soon after he was elected president in 2018. Speaking to reporters in Harare after holding meetings with Mnangagwa and some opposition groups, Mbeki said he was willing to find a lasting political solution in Zimbabwe as long as locals are prepared to work together for the benefit of millions of people.
Zimbabweans are currently facing an economic crisis fueled by hyperinflation, high unemployment rate, critical shortages of cash and fuel, devastating drought and serious power outages.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and Information Secretary Nick Mangwana were not available for comment as they were not responding to calls on their mobile phones.
Mbeki mediated in the 2008/2009 talks between the ruling Zanu PF party then led by the late former president Robert Mugabe and MDC formations, which eventually resulted in the formation of a unity government in 2009.
Responding to inquiries over Mbeki’s visit to Zimbabwe, Chamisa’s spokesperson, Nkululeko Sibanda, told VOA Zimbabwe Service’s Gibbs Dube the MDC leader discussed a lot of issues with the former South African president, including ways of curbing electoral fraud in Zimbabwe and fixing the ailing economy. He speaks about this and possibilities of a unity government in the country.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo was unavailable for comment. A ruling party member, Malaki Nkomo, who is also a former Member of Parliament for Insiza South, told VOA Zimbabwe Service that Chamisa’s party has to recognize Mnangagwa as the legitimately-elected leader of Zimbabwe if the two parties have to engage in meaningful talks for resolving issues affecting the country.
Political commentators say Mbeki's visit reminds Zimbabweans of the unity agreement he crafted in 2009, which appeared to favor Mugabe and not the opposition.