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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 19th December 2019

Mbeki in Zimbabwe unity government talks

Blue Lines

The arrival of South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki in Harare this week for talks with Zimbabwe's leading political figures points to the depth of the country's crisis. Strikes and protests are set to intensify, despite a violent crackdown by President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government.

We understand that Mbeki has been asked by President Cyril Ramaphosa to offer his country's help in mediating between Mnangagwa and his opponents. No one took seriously Mnangagwa's claims that his meeting with Mbeki was just a discussion about combating Western sanctions. Mbeki's mission was to urge Zimbabweans to give 'mediation a chance', said Stergomena Tax, Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community.

Mbeki also met opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, but oppositionists are wary of a rerun of the power-sharing deal that Mbeki brokered after disputed elections in 2008 which strengthened the ZANU-PF government.

Activists have responded by forming the National Convergence Platform, a coalition of civil society groups, trade unions, professional associations and religious groups. It wants to build consensus for a plan to rebuild the education and health services and relaunch the economy, according to its spokesman, Reverend Kenneth Mtata. Insiders say the group could also back opposition parties in negotiations for a government of national unity.