Tutu fears instability in Zimbabwe

LONDON – If President Robert Mugabe insists on staying in power in Zimbabwe, it would be the "worst possible recipe for instability" in southern Africa, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Thursday.

The breakdown of power-sharing talks in Zimbabwe would almost certainly lead to violence while a government that excluded the opposition would not be seen as legitimate, the Nobel peace prize winner told Reuters during a visit to London.

An official from Zimbabwe’s main opposition party said earlier that the party had lost faith in power-sharing talks with Mugabe and would leave him to form a government alone rather than be forced into a deal.

The official, who asked not to be named, said the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) no longer had confidence in the mediation of South African President Thabo Mbeki and wanted the United Nations and African Union to rescue the process.

"Anyone who cares about the welfare of people will be very distressed and I hope that somehow they will find a way of salvaging (the talks) because any arrangement that excludes the MDC clearly is not going to be regarded as legitimate," Tutu said, when asked his reaction to the MDC’s decision.

"It just means we are back at square one basically," he said, speaking before a London ceremony to unveil a sculpture to mark the 19th century abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

"It’s going to mean that it’s almost certain that they are going to have violence and all of that erupting (in Zimbabwe) and so one is praying, and I hope everybody will pray desperately, that somehow they will be able to pull the iron out of the fire," Tutu said.

If Mugabe insisted on staying in power, it would be the "worst possible recipe for instability" in southern Africa, he said, noting that Botswana had refused to recognise Mugabe’s victory in a presidential run-off ballot boycotted by the opposition.

Talks are deadlocked over how to share executive power between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, putting off any chance of rescuing Zimbabwe from its economic collapse.

Zimbabwe state media said Mugabe, in power since 1980, had given Tsvangirai until Thursday to sign a deal or he would form a government himself. Reuters