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Southern African Leaders Gather to Discuss Zimbabwe

  • Delia Robertson

Southern African leaders are gathering in the Zambian capital ahead of a regional summit Saturday to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will be present, but there have been conflicting messages from the Zimbabwe government regarding the attendance of President Robert Mugabe. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.

Zimbabweans have great hope, but few expectations, that the regional summit called by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa will bring an end to the constitutional impasse caused by the failure to release the result of the country's presidential poll.

Brian Raftopoulos of Zimbabwe's independent Solidarity Peace Trust, says the record of the Southern Africa Development Community with respect to Zimbabwe leaves little room for hope.

"On the basis of their record, the way SADC structures work, I would doubt very much that they would issue anything but very mild cajoling, if you like, of the regime," he said.

Raftopoulos, who is director of research at the Trust, says that SADC needs to acknowledge that the election has failed to meet the objectives it set last year when it asked South African President Thabo Mbeki to facilitate talks between Zimbabwe's ruling and opposition parties.

The main objective of those talks was to achieve a legitimate election, and Raftopoulos says that this has not been done because the government of President Robert Mugabe is blocking the release of the results. He says that to fulfill their own objective, regional leaders need first to be honest and then act.

"Is to criticize him both in the meeting and to issue public criticism of the process and to demand that these results be published forthwith. And then to assist both with setting up a political process that can bring us through this crisis, bring the major parties together again, with the idea the results, once they are out, then provide a basis for finding a way forward," said Raftopoulos.

Among the leaders in Lusaka will be Mr. Mbeki, who himself is the subject of criticism at home for what is perceived as his failure to speak out more clearly on recent events in Zimbabwe.

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