Sunday, April 22, 2007

Clock ticking on SA mediation

The clock is ticking for Pretoria, whose mediation in Zimbabwe's political crisis is off to a sluggish start as looming elections leave little time to bring about results, according to analysts.

International hopes are pinned on President Thabo Mbeki's ability to initiate talks between President Robert Mugabe's ruling party and an opposition that he has set about brutally crushing over recent weeks.

However, with Mbeki's limited mandate to go where he and others have failed before, less than a year until Zimbabwe is expected to hold its elections and Mugabe as bullish as ever, many expect the process to be a lacklustre effort.

According to political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki South Africa's much-criticised policy of quiet diplomacy was a "do-nothing scenario".

"The government's response, I think, is to be seen to be trying to do something, but there is no threat to its own interest which makes it want to make a serious investment to bringing about change in Zimbabwe," said Mbeki of the South African Institute of International Affairs.

Two past mediation efforts, by president Mbeki and former Mozambican counterpart Joaquim Chissano, ended in stalemate, and yet again Mugabe seems unwilling and Mbeki unable to force the opposing sides to solve their problems.

When asked whether time was running out for South Africa, an expert in regional politics at Pretoria's University of South Africa, said: "Most certainly, they have got the mandate and they will try their best, but the prospects of success are unlikely."....

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