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Mbeki sticks to quiet diplomacy, says will be no regime change

Mbeki sticks to quiet diplomacy, says will be no regime change

South African President Thabo Mbeki insisted Thursday that negotiations between Zimbabwe's ruling party and its opposition were the only way to end the political and economic crisis and ruled out any outside efforts to force a change in government.
"We are not going to be involved in any regime change in Zimbabwe," Mbeki said during parliamentary question time. "We are not going to do it. We think it is fundamentally wrong."
"We can't take on our shoulders the decision to determine who shall be the government of the people of Zimbabwe. It's not going to happen," he said, adding he believed it was wrong to use sanctions to pressure Zimbabwe's government.
In the face of mounting political repression and economic collapse, Mbeki was earlier this year named to mediate in the crisis. So far there have been no tangible results, with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe refusing to make any concessions to a weak and divided opposition.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change wants Zimbabwean expatriates to be allowed to vote. There are believed to be 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa alone _ most of them sympathetic to the opposition.
The opposition party earlier this week said it still supported the mediation process headed by Mbeki, but expressed reservations about the lack of progress.
Mbeki said Zimbabweans were determined to solve their problems themselves.
"The Zimbabwean leadership, both political and the non-governmental organizations, ... are quite convinced they can and will agree among themselves how to handle the situation to have free and fair elections," he said. "I believe them."
He dismissed comparisons between the current situation in Zimbabwe and apartheid-era South Africa, when international pressure and sanctions helped bring an end to white racist rule.
Given that both the ruling and opposition party were involved in negotiations, Mbeki said that sanctions didn't "make sense."
"Here they are engaged, and you say beat them with a stick," he told a South African opposition lawmaker.
Mugabe has blamed Western sanctions for the economic woes crippling the former breadbasket. At a banquet honoring a visiting African dictator earlier this week, he blasted former colonial power Britain's "heinous attempts to destroy the country and bring down its democratically elected government."
But most observers say that it is Mugabe's economic policies that are to blame for inflation of nearly 8,000 percent, unemployment of 80 percent and shortages of most basic products.
Western countries have imposed a travel ban on Mugabe and other ruling party leaders to protest violations of democratic and human rights following the government ordered, often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms that began in 2000 and disrupted the agriculture-based economy. Some U.S. enterprises are barred from trading with Zimbabwe.
Foreign loans, development aid and investment have dried up because of the political and economic turmoil in what was once the region's breadbasket.
Critics accuse Mbeki of doing too little to stop the human rights abuses and imprisonment of opposition figures in Zimbabwe. They say that South Africa, the regional diplomatic and economic powerhouse, is helping prop up Mugabe's regime by refusing to take a tougher stance.
Mike Lowe, a member of South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance, said talks with Zimbabweans crossing the border into South Africa showed the sheer level of despair.
"We spoke to a brutalized, terrorized and often beaten people," he said. "The people I spoke to told me a story of fear and hunger. This is a human tragedy."


Updated : 2021-04-16 19:24 GMT+08:00