- Title: SOUTH AFRICA: Elders delegation calls for intervention in Zimbabwe
- Date: 25th November 2008
- Summary: MOTLANTHE SPEAKING TO JOURNALISTS AFTER MEETING VARIOUS OF JOURNALISTS LISTENING (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT, KGALEMA MOTLANTHE, SAYING: "Well, the Elders painted a rather depressing picture because, and it's something that we are aware of as well, so we agreed that the situation is actually very desperate and that, unless you know the root cause of the political absence of a legitimate government is not solved, the situation will get worse, and may implode or collapse all together." SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIALS LISTENING MOTLANTHE SPEAKING
- Embargoed: 10th December 2008 12:00
- Location: South Africa
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA3ZTYC6UTUT8T2WEHJCRC5DHIL
- Story Text: South Africa's President Kgalema Motlanthe says the situation in Zimbabwe could collapse. The Elders delegation, including former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, call for intervention in the country to stem the humanitarian crisis, after meeting with Motlanthe.
Southern African nations must intervene more decisively to end Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and other prominent world figures said on Monday (November 24.) Describing Zimbabwe as close to a humanitarian disaster, Annan urged leaders of the 15-nation South African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc to pressure President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to break a deadlock blocking the formation of a unity government.
"I had the feeling that we were forgetting about the people and we felt we should come and focus attention on their needs, listen to people, assess the situation for ourselves on the ground, and make a judgement as to what we can do to help, and how we can encourage the international community to do more," said Annan at a news conference after meeting with South African President Kgalema Motlanthe in Johannesburg.
Motlanthe told reporters after the meeting with Annan and others from the delegation known as the Elders, that they had agreed that without intervention the situation in Zimbabwe may collapse.
Grace Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela and part of the Elders' delegation, praised South Africa for moving last week to withhold some $300 million in food aid to Zimbabwe until a representative government was in place.
"The message is very clear, in a creative, innovative and whatever you may want to call it, that agreement has to be put into place, it has to be effective, it has to be workable, so that the suffering of the people has to stop," she said.
Annan, Machel, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, part of the Elders group, were barred from entering Zimbabwe last weekend on a humanitarian visit. Mugabe's government denied them visas, saying the visit was unnecessary.
"I think they need to send in a team, to make an assessment of what is going on with cholera, with starvation, with crops, with the education system, with the monetary system, and report back to the leaders, what is going on, and I see no reason why the African Union, without interfering in the political negotiations, shouldn't do the same thing, and I don't see any reason why the United Nations shouldn't also send a team in to Zimbabwe, so the whole world would know what we have learned the last three days, and what we have shared with you," said Carter at the news conference.
Harare's refusal of entry prompted criticism on Monday from South African ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma, who called the decision an "unfortunate act" and urged Zimbabwe's political parties to quickly settle a two-month dispute over control of cabinet.
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe added that his government had asked Mugabe for an explanation but received no response. "He never got back to us," Motlanthe told reporters after meeting Annan, Carter and Machel.
Zuma said a cholera epidemic that has killed around 300 people in Zimbabwe and sent hundreds more fleeing into South Africa highlighted the need for urgent action by Zimbabwe's political rivals.
A deepening economic crisis, marked by chronic food shortages and soaring hyperinflation, has prompted millions of Zimbabweans to flee the country. Those who have remained behind face rising malnutrition and disease.
Zimbabwean President Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed to share power under a September 15 deal brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, but talks have been bogged down over the control of key ministries.
MDC and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe, who won a June presidential election boycotted by Tsvangirai because of violence, of trying to relegate the MDC to the role of a junior partner in the government.
An MDC spokesman in Johannesburg on Monday said they were the first to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis in the country,
"Mugabe has never publicly acknowledged the humanitarian crisis.
So it is not correct to allocate blame to the MDC, as to the humanitarian crisis. The MDC is solely responsible for trying to solve the problem in Zimbabwe," said Nqobizitha Mlilo.
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai's MDC and a smaller MDC faction will meet with Mbeki on Tuesday (November 25) in South Africa to try to break the impasse, Motlanthe said. Mbeki has mediated the crisis since 2007 under a SADC mandate.
The African National Congress, backed by Mugabe during its decades-long struggle to overthrow apartheid in South Africa, will also send a delegation to Zimbabwe to assess the situation, Zuma said.
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