Mugabe not keen to meet Sadc

MAPUTO - President Robert Mugabe is not too keen on a regional meeting in Maputo this week, as pressure mounts on African leaders to tackle his attempt to fast-track an election without crucial reforms.

Mugabe, who has been buoyed by a Constitutional Court ruling directing him to hold elections by July 31 amid renewed civil society and opposition-led criticism, will brief leaders from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) at the special summit, who were scheduled to meet yesterday in Maputo, but deferred the meeting after Mugabe requested for time to confer with his colleagues in government and in his party.

Maite Nkoana Mashabane, South African International Relations and Cooperation minister told reporters in Pretoria on Friday that the meeting was still pencilled for later this week, pending confirmation from regional leaders.

“Will there be an extraordinary summit? Yes. But there are still consultations to find a convenient date for the majority of leaders,” Nkoana Mashabane said.

Diplomatic sources in Maputo told the Daily News, a meeting had been tentatively set for Tuesday in Maputo, but Mugabe reportedly advised that he will be unavailable again as he will be chairing Cabinet on that day and will also chair a politburo meeting of his Zanu PF party on Wednesday to deliberate on the Constitutional Court ruling.

The Sadc secretariat was said to be facing a logistical nightmare as first the meeting was moved to Pretoria, where civil society was mobilising to picket the special gathering, before it was moved back to Maputo later this week, pending confirmation from Mugabe.

Regional leaders called the Sadc meeting to discuss a request to fund the Zimbabwe poll and preparations for the elections which analysts say threaten to destabilise the region if it is disputed.

Zimbabwe needs $132 million for the poll, but Mugabe has already rejected UN funding saying he will not accept cash with strings attached.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who has entered an opposition coalition against Mugabe, is holding out for more reforms ahead of the poll and alignment of laws to a new Constitution ushered in on May 22.

Tsvangirai proposes an October poll, and says there is a constitutional provision allowing for a four-month extension from the   date Parliament dissolves on June 29.

The election dispute has raised tensions in government.

The meeting, scheduled for later this week in Mozambique’s capital Maputo, is expected to draw 14 heads of State.

Mugabe meanwhile has said Zimbabwe was moving ahead with plans to stage polls before July 31 saying he does not want to rule for long by decree when Parliament expires on June 29.

 The MDC and its allies in the coalition says the playing field must be levelled ahead of the  municipal, parliamentary and presidential vote.

Mugabe, the country’s sole ruler since independence from Britain in 1980, says the MDC is receiving funding from his Western foes to topple him from power.

The MDC has denied the charges, and the Western countries have started relaxing sanctions on his regime.

Southern African countries have remained largely quiet on the Zimbabwe crisis, but Botswana President Ian Khama has regularly broken ranks, speaking out against Mugabe’s excesses.

South African International Relations minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane says a Sadc summit is on this week. - Gift Phiri in Mozambique

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