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Former South African President Mbeki Asked to Return as Zimbabwe Mediator

  • Delia Robertson

While he may no longer be South African president, Thabo Mbeki has been asked to resume his role as mediator of Zimbabwe's political situation. The ruling ANC party recently asked Mbeki to step down before next year's elections. The move has angered some of his supporters in the party.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. She spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the request to have Mbeki resume his mediation duties.

"It is rather ironic, isn't it, that Mr. (Morgan) Tsvangirai's MDC (opposition party) is now calling for his return. I think that they ultimately realize that he didn't have solely the interests of (Zimbabwean president Robert) Mugabe and his party at heart, but interests of Zimbabweans and wanted to find something that could move the country forward. And so, perhaps that is what has happened," she says.

A few months ago, the MDC called for Mr. Mbeki's replacement as mediator. "I think that has got a lot to do with playing politics within their own ranks and with other political parties in the country. And I think that they were hoping that by doing that they could somehow influence what might happen at the (power sharing) talks. And to an extent I suppose that it worked because ultimately there were some nuanced movements in the deal that was originally proposed to the one that was finally signed," she says.

However, since Mbeki is no longer South African president, what clout would he now yield as a mediator? Robertson says, "I think we need to remember that SADC (Southern African Development Community) itself has called for him to remain on as mediator. And also I have a feeling that President Motlanthe might want him to do it, perhaps as a gesture to show that he is still in good standing in South Africa. Because the ANC itself is starting to feel the bite, a bit of a backlash, following its treatment of Mr. Mbeki."

As for President Mugabe's reaction to Mbeki's possible return as mediator, Robertson says, "I do think that if he goes back as mediator he goes back with the full support of SADC and also of the African Union. And I do think that the African Union has made it clear, as has the Southern African development Community, to Zimbabwe's leaders that they want to see this matter resolved."

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