Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro, the MDC’ secretary for Foreign Affairs, told us from Johannesburg that the party delegation took the first morning flight from Harare.
Clarifying reports on what transpired at the airport on Thursday Mukonoweshuro lambasted the state media for what he termed ‘mischievous’ journalism, after reports said he and Tendai Biti, the secretary general abandoned the journey in solidarity with the confiscation of Tsvangirai’s travel documents.
‘Those reports are stupid. Our passports were taken from us even before Tsvangirai got to the airport. By the time our aides got them back, I was already home and there was no other flight to catch at that time,’ Mukonoweshuro explained.
On arrival in South Africa the MDC delegation immediately went on the offensive, meeting regional delegates and diplomats. One MDC official quipped that this was why Mugabe blocked them from leaving Harare Thursday.
‘The authorities probably thought we would have a head start flying here earlier than Mugabe and lobby the region to come up with a resolution at this summit,’ said the official.
The crisis ridden power-sharing talks between ZANU-PF and the MDC are expected to continue this weekend in Johannesburg, on the sidelines of the SADC summit. Robert Mugabe was expected in Johannesburg Friday and so too was Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the MDC breakaway faction.
Shingai Nyoni, speaking to us from the summit venue at Sandton convention centre in Johannesburg, said all parties were expected to attend the opening ceremony of the summit after which there would be a special session on Zimbabwe where each party was expected to address the SADC Heads of State.
‘A lot of civil organisations across the region have been meeting in the last two days and they have all resolved to demand that SADC should sort out the Zimbabwe crisis,’ Nyoni said.
There are reports the government in South Africa, concerned with the unusually huge and unprecedented anti-Mugabe protests planned by the powerful labour body COSATU and civil organisations, have resorted to limiting the number of observers accredited.
‘We’ve noticed they are blocking many organisations from getting accreditation to attend the summit. But people are not being deterred, they’ve vowed to attend with or without accreditation,’ Nyoni said.
Talks to salvage a power-sharing deal reached a crisis on Tuesday after three days of scant progress, when Morgan Tsvangirai reportedly walked out of the discussions. Tsvangirai and Mugabe have remained at loggerheads as to who will chair the cabinet in a power-sharing government.
It’s hoped that input from the SADC grouping, which appointed Mbeki the chief mediator last year, can help bridge the gap between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.