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S African, Nigerian Officials Try to Ease Mugabe Isolation - 2002-03-25

Representatives from Nigeria and South Africa are in Zimbabwe, hoping they can help ease the increasing isolation of President Robert Mugabe's government following disputed presidential elections earlier this month. Meanwhile, new violence is reported in Zimbabwe.

The two officials are the secretary-general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, Kgaleme Mothlanthe, and Nigerian economist Adebayo Adedji. They have been talking for several days with President Mugabe and with the head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai.

They have a tough job. President Mugabe does not see any reason for a government of national unity, and Mr. Tsvangirai does not want to be part of one.

South Africa and Nigeria pledged to seek a solution to Zimbabwe's increasing international isolation, following its suspension from the Commonwealth last week.

The talks are private. The state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and two daily newspapers have not even reported the talks between the facilitators and officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Mr. Mugabe is understood to be reluctant to make any concessions to the opposition MDC beyond his statements about the need for reconciliation. Political analysts say they believe that if Mr. Mugabe is forced to include MDC in his government, he wants to make the concession when the opposition is in a weak position.

Mr. Tsvangirai maintains the elections were rigged, and he wants an internationally supervised re-run of the presidential poll.

Meanwhile, new violence is reported around Zimbabwe. MDC officials say that at least two of the party's parliament members, hundreds of its election agents, and thousands of other party members have fled their homes in the face of threats and violence.

They say MDC members and supporters are being hounded by ZANU PF militia, partisan members of the security forces, and by members of the ruling party's youth league.

A growing number of white commercial farmers have recently abandoned their land, and tens of thousands of their workers have been forced to quit.