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Zambia breaks African ranks on Zimbabwe
Amy Musgrave, Business Day (SA)
March 22, 2007

ZAMBIA has become the first African country to openly call for a new approach to be taken on Zimbabwe, with President Levy Mwanawasa and former president Kenneth Kaunda separately urging African leaders to intervene in the embattled country.

Their comments, by far the strongest to date by African leaders on Zimbabwe’s crisis, are likely to place SA under greater pressure to change its policy of quiet diplomacy. This was echoed by local political parties and trade unions across the spectrum yesterday during rallies to celebrate Human Rights Day.

The recent violence in Zimbabwe has been condemned across the globe and countries have been calling on African states, in particular SA, to help end the crackdown on Zimbabwe’s political opposition. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice raised the matter with South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma during a telephone call last week.

But the South African government seemed to be sticking to its guns, with government spokesman Themba Maseko indicating there would be no change in approach. Although Maseko said the recent beatings of members of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were "unacceptable," he said SA was still trying to get the Zimbabwean government and the MDC to the negotiating table.

Mwanawasa said yesterday the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had failed to make progress in talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. "Quiet diplomacy has failed to help solve the political chaos and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe," Mwanawasa said during a five-day state visit to Namibia.

"As I speak right now, one SADC country has sunk into such economic difficulties that it may be likened to a sinking Titanic whose passengers are jumping off in a bid to save their lives."

Zambian government newspapers said Mwanawasa had suggested SADC would soon take a stand on Zimbabwe. The regional grouping is due to meet in Tanzania next week to discuss the situation.

Kaunda, historically an ally of Mugabe, urged African leaders to appoint a committee of eminent people to mediate Zimbabwe’s worsening political crisis.

Kaunda told state-run radio the issue needed to be resolved urgently.

In SA, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said it was a shame that while SA was celebrating Human Rights Day yesterday, the citizens of neighbouring Zimbabwe were being subjected to all kinds of human rights abuses.

Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said SA was using bureaucratic excuses to shield tyrants and despots from international scrutiny.

"It speaks volumes that the government could not even bring itself to condemn last week’s arrest and torture of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai," he said.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said SA’s behaviour concerning Zimbabwe was "sad" considering all the work President Thabo Mbeki had done to improve the image of Africa.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said that as South Africans celebrated Human Rights Day, they needed to think of Zimbabweans being "subjected to the kind of tyranny reminiscent of the apartheid regime and its security apparatus".

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the union federation’s campaign for human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe needed to be intensified. The union dedicated the day to members of Zimbabwe’s Congress of Trade Unions, members of which would be risking their lives on April 3-4 when they took part in a stayaway.

South African organisations were also planning events in solidarity with the Zimbabweans, he said.

With Sapa

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