SOUTH Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) this week intensified efforts to push President Robert Mugabe to discuss a negotiated political settlement of the Zimbabwean crisis with opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
An ANC delegation led by party vice-president Kgalema Motlanthe arrived in the country on Wednesday to discuss with Mugabe ways of resolving the standoff between him and Tsvangirai.
A few days ago, ANC president Jacob Zuma described Mugabe as one of the leaders in Africa who were clinging to power against the electorate’s will.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe accompanied Motlanthe to the meeting with Mugabe and other senior Zanu PF officials.
Mantashe was in 2005 declared a persona non grata after he and 11 members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) were deported from Harare by the government.
The 12-member Cosatu delegation was, at the time, stopped midstream as they held meetings with their Zimbabwean counterparts, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
They were bundled into a kombi and driven to Beitbridge where they were placed under heavy police and army guard before they were eventually deported to South Africa.
However, this week, despite the fact his ban has not been officially revoked, Mantashe returned to Zimbabwe.
Informed sources said yesterday the ANC impressed upon Mugabe that it would send the former Cosatu leader alongside a number of other party officials for a courtesy call where discussions to help tackle the Zimbabwean crisis were held.
Sources close to the meeting said yesterday the ANC leaders had “attempted to show Mugabe the need for a political settlement”.
They added that the task was much easier as Mugabe had already agreed to back down from his hardline stance against the opposition.
“The South African delegation made it clear that bickering between Zanu PF and the MDC was not going to solve the problems facing Zimbabwe,” a source said. “It (the delegation) reiterated calls by the entire ANC leadership that Mugabe and Tsvangirai should focus their efforts on forming a government that would take on board all the stakeholders. Basically, the ANC delegation was here to step up its pressure on Mugabe to agree to talk to the MDC.”
Another source said Mugabe had given the ANC delegation assurances that he would engage the MDC in talks but said he had expressed concern at the actions of MDC leader, Tsvangirai last Friday.
Tsvangirai had agreed to meet Mugabe at Zimbabwe House for discussions to be chaired by South African President Thabo Mbeki, but boycotted the meeting after making a last-minute decision not to take part. This would have been the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since the formation of the MDC in 1999 and the subsequent political standoff involving the two parties over elections.
By Nkululeko Sibanda