African icon Nelson Mandela has broken his silence on the Zimbabwe crisis, calling President Mugabe's leadership a failure. International pressure to delay the June 27 run-off is mounting on Mugabe. (Report: K. Williams)
Click here to read the commentary by FRANCE 24's Armen Georgian: "Mugabe and Tsvangirai willing to negotiate...what?"
President Robert Mugabe addresses his final campaign rally on Thursday, ahead of the June 27 presidential run-off in which he is now the sole candidate following the withdrawal of challenger Morgan Tsvangirai.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela finally broke his silence on the crisis, on Wednesday, denouncing a "tragic failure of leadership'" in the country. The African liberation icon's comments came during a dinner in London to mark his 90th birthday.
Mugabe also faced harsh criticism from U.S. President George W. Bush, who called Friday's election a "sham".
White House hopeful Barack Obama has added his voice to the chorus of condemnation against Robert Mugabe. Addressing the press in Chicago, Obama described Zimbabwe's situation as "tragic" and said South Africa, in particular, should be doing more to help.
On Wednesday, leaders of three southern African nations urged Zimbabwe to postpone the June 27 vote run-off during a meeting in Swaziland on Wednesday. Their demand came just hours after Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai appealed to regional leaders for help and called for the deployment of international “armed peacekeepers.”
Emerging briefly from the Dutch embassy in Harare, where he has sought refuge, Tsvangirai said he was open to talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe only if Friday’s presidential vote run-off was put off.
In the Swazi capital of Mbabane, Zimbabwe’s neighbours joined the growing international chorus of calls for a run-off postponement.
A security troika of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – comprising Tanzania, Angola and Swaziland –, warned that holding the June 27 vote “under the current circumstances may undermine the credibility and legitimacy of its outcome."
The gathering of southern African leaders also urged the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC to hold talks to try to find a compromise to the current political impasse.
Reporting from neighbouring South Africa, FRANCE 24’s Caroline Dumay said Tsvangirai was trying to open discussions and to “set up a transitional body to deal with the country’s political and humanitarian crisis.” According to Dumay, the Zimbabwean opposition leader is “putting forward the idea of a national unity government”.
‘The time has come for action’
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai, who sought refuge in the Dutch embassy shortly after declaring he was not participating in the run-off, told reporters that “the time has come for action.”
He also issued a plea for the release of opposition supporters jailed by the Zimbabwean authorities. “There can be no discussion on the path to take without the prior release of our (party) secretary general Tendai Biti, jailed under charges of treason, and hence liable for the death penalty,” he said.
June 27 run-off in limbo
Despite Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the second round of the presidential election, his rival, Mugabe, insists on going ahead with the vote, disregarding a UN appeal to postpone it.
The Zimbabwean situation will be at the heart of talks between the heads of the African Union member states, who meet in Egypt at the end of June. The international community awaits the outcome of the AU summit, since, according to Dumay, “only African nations can be effective here; Mugabe will never listen to a westerner.”
Date created : 2008-06-26