Mbeki in Zimbabwe amid speculation of mediation talks

President Mnangagwa and South African former President Thabo Mbeki address media at State House in Harare yesterday.-Picture: Tawanda Mudimu

HARARE – Former South African President Thabo Mbeki met with President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare on Monday, in an apparent move by the Zimbabwean leader to break the political logjam in Harare.

Mbeki was due to meet opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, and the widow of former President Robert Mugabe before returning to South Africa on Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman George Charamba said: “He was invited by President Mnangagwa a long time ago, but was only able to fulfil the fixture today.

“He will stay on until tomorrow. It’s very likely he will meet a few political leaders, mostly from standing invitations. The only unscheduled one could be with Mai Grace Mugabe.”

After a closed-door meeting with Mnangagwa, Mbeki urged Chamisa to accept the Constitutional Court ruling on his election petition last year.

The MDC leader says he does not recognise Mnangagwa’s narrow election victory, and has been pressing for a neutral foreign mediator to lead dialogue between the two major parties seen as critical in ending Zimbabwe’s international isolation and restoring economic stability.

“We must all of us respect the view of the people. If people have queries, they must go to the courts. All of our countries in the region have a provision that we launch our complaints in the courts, and once the courts make a ruling, we will respect that,” Mbeki said.

Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF party has insisted that Chamisa should concede defeat as a first step to negotiations, although the two men are still far apart on what the outcome of those negotiations will look like.

Chamisa wants a transitional government which will implement vital economic, governance and electoral reforms, while Mnangagwa wants opposition rivals to perform an advisory role.

Charamba, asked why Mnangagwa had invited Mbeki, insisted that it was not to mediate between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.

“The President has been reaching out to an old comrade. Besides, he wanted to brief him on the situation in the country since November 17. And of course on sanctions, about which the President thinks he has some role to play,” Charamba told ZimLive.

Mnangagwa, helped by the military, staged a coup in November 2017 which ousted long-time leader Mugabe, in power for 37 years.

Zimbabwe’s economy has tanked since Mnangagwa’s takeover, and investors have shied away from the country after increased government repression and currency uncertainty following the unexpected re-introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar in June.

Mbeki negotiated a 2009 power sharing government in Zimbabwe after Mugabe claimed a landslide in a 2008 presidential run-off election marred by widespread violence.

The government of national unity, in which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai became Prime Minister, ushered in a period of economic stability until new elections were held in 2013.