Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai met yesterday with Jacob Zuma, leader of South Africa’s ruling party and expected presidential candidate. A spokesman for the African National Congress says the two men met in Johannesburg but did not give any details of the meeting. Tsvangirai says he won outright Zimbabwe's recent presidential election, the results of which have yet to be released.
VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke with English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the reasons for the Tsvangirai-Zuma meeting.
“I think Morgan Tsvangirai does have some sense of what might be happening in South African politics. And I think if he’s been paying attention to it he would have seen that the African National Congress has been using its party political authority to try and get the government to do things that it wants done, including the president of the country, Mr. Thabo Mbeki. And so perhaps that is why he was meeting with Mr. Zuma, because he thinks perhaps that the ANC would bring some sort of pressure to bear on Mr. Mbeki to act in a different way with respect to Zimbabwe,” she says.
Asked whether Jacob Zuma has been a critic of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Robertson says, “He’s been just as cautious as Mr. Mbeki has been in many respects. In fact, not long ago he said in an interview that South Africa should continue Mr. Mbeki’s policy of engaging with Mr. Mugabe.”
There’s been criticism of Thabo Mbeki’s quiet mediation efforts in Zimbabwe as being ineffective, considering the current turmoil in that country. Robertson says, “I think the mediation worked up to a point in that it brought the two parties together, the ruling ZANU-PF Party and both factions of the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) Party in talks, which lasted quite some time.
“The other thing that it did is that those talks did achieve certain things. There were amendments to the electoral act. There were amendments to other laws in Zimbabwe, which have made it easier, for example, for the opposition parties to keep track of what exactly occurred at each polling station. So that the results of each polling station were published at that polling station, as well as being sent to the Zimbabwe Elections Commission.”
She adds that the mediation efforts have made it somewhat easier for the media. “For example, reporters who are Zimbabwean are not as restricted now as they were in the past to do reporting. It has been possible for reporters to actually work publicly in the streets and do interviews on the streets with people. There have been cases where African media organizations have had greater access and ability to cover this election than might have been the case in the past. However, Zimbabwe still refused to allow delegations or reporters from most international news organizations, particularly those in Western countries, to cover the election.”
If the Mbeki mediation efforts have achieved some success, why would Tsvangirai meet with Zuma instead of President Mbeki? “For one thing, Mr. Mbeki was not in South Africa. He, over the weekend, was in the United Kingdom and from there he left directly for India, where there’s a meeting of Indian and African governments.… But I also think that Mr. Tsvangirai is using whatever avenues might be available to him, as any politician would.”