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South African Foreign Minister Visits Harare - 2003-01-22

At a moment of intense diplomatic activity in Zimbabwe, South Africa's Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma held talks with her counterpart in Harare Wednesday.

Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma was in Harare briefly, 48 hours after a visit by Nigeria's foreign minister.

Behind the standard government statement that her visit is routine, there is intense diplomatic activity leading up to South African President Thabo Mbeki's visit to London later this month.

South Africa, Australia and Nigeria are the three Commonwealth nations that took on responsibility for Zimbabwe's future within the organizations.

At stake is Zimbabwe's position in the Commonwealth, from which it was suspended last year for 12 months. In March, the three countries are expected to face increased pressure from western members of the Commonwealth for Zimbabwe's expulsion.

The diplomacy also comes at a time of what human rights activists call heightened political tension, violence and repression, and the ongoing hunger of more than half the population in Zimbabwe.

Scores of opposition activists are in custody, including an opposition member of parliament, Paulina Mpawima. Police say her party, the Movement for Democratic Change, is behind an attack on ruling party offices in a township this week, which left one person dead, and seven injured. Police also say the opposition burned a bus.

Some workers heeded a call by activist groups for a one-day strike Wednesday, and police were out in force in the industrial sector. Most business continued as usual.

Meanwhile, two Word Cup Cricket executives were in Harare Wednesday to check final security arrangements for matches to be played here next month. Activists say the World Cup cricket match between Britain and Zimbabwe on February 13 will be a focal point for resistance to the government.