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breaks African ranks on Zimbabwe
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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.
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