South African President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday briefed senior political officials of the Southern African Development Community on his efforts to mediate a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe - an undertaking many believe has reached a dead end.
No details immediately emerged as what Mr. Mbeki told his SADC peers on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was briefing SADC's committee on politics, defense and security, whose members now include Tanzania, Angola and Namibia. The meeting was chaired by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in the absence of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
Mr. Mbeki was appointed mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis in March 2007 when SADC met in an extraordinary summit to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe, which had seen an upsurge in political violence as the state cracked down on the opposition.
The negotiations appeared to be making headway late last year, producing bipartisan support for a constitutional amendment and revisions of legislation regarding public order, elections, press freedom and broadcasting. But Mr. Mbeki was unable to overcome President Robert Mugabe's resistance to broader reforms despite a personal appeal for a postponement of elections now set for March 29.
For a sense of the atmosphere in Addis Ababa, reporter Patience Rusere spoke with National Coordinator Alois Mbawara of the British-based Free Zim Youth organization, who said that while little is known of Mr. Mbeki’s intervention, there seemed to be less sympathy for President Mugabe among African diplomats at the summit.