SADC mulls cash-strapped Zimbabwe foot Summit bill

Diplomatic sources said the suggestion for the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s security organ to meet in Zimbabwe followed a visit to Harare last weekend by regional executive secretary Tomaz Salamao.

Salamao came to Harare after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party announced a partial boycott of the coalition government because of differences with President Robert Mugabe.

He met representatives of the countries making the SADC security organ or troika and officials from the MDC and Mugabe’s ZANU PF party. According to our sources who are members of the diplomatic community, it was strongly suggested during the discussions that a summit of the troika to discuss Zimbabwe be held in Harare.

"It has been suggested that Zimbabwe hosts its own summit as a way of forcing the leaders to come to reality of the choices they make which affect their people. "Another option is to have the summit in Mozambique, but it is strongly felt that the Harare government hosts this summit," said a senior diplomat, who spoke on condition he was not named.

The SADC that brokered the power-sharing agreement between Tsvangirai and Mugabe is alongside the African Union a guarantor of the pact.

The regional body tasked its security organ to monitor Zimbabwe’s global political agreement (GPA) that set up the February unity government.The organ is chaired by Mozambican President Armando Guebuza with Zambia’s President Rupiah Banda his deputy and Swaziland’s King Mswati the third member. South Africa attends the troika’s meetings on Zimbabwe as mediator in the crisis.

Salamao, who left Harare on Sunday, failed to meet both Mugabe and Tsvangirai as they were all said to be out of Harare. But the SADC secretary general met with diplomats representing the troika and representatives of Zimbabwe’s two main political leaders.

Meanwhile President Mugabe chaired a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday despite the MDC boycott, with officials Mugabe’s ZANU PF keen to reassure observers that affairs of government were perfectly under control. "The Cabinet started at nine. The session is being chaired by President Mugabe," a government official told the media.

MDC leader Tsvangirai, who left Harare on Monday on mission to persuade regional leaders to intervene to end the crisis and save the coalition government, was scheduled to fly Mozambique on Tuesday to meet Guebuza.

MDC spokesperson and Cabinet minister Nelson Chamisa said that any decisions made at Tuesday’s meeting would not be binding. "The matter is now in the hands of SADC and the AU who are guarantors of this agreement," he said, confirming Tsvangirai’s Mozambique trip.

The MDC’s decision that they would no longer attend Cabinet and were cutting all contact with Mugabe and his ZANU PF party until all outstanding issues are resolved has plunged the unity government into its worst crisis since its formation in February.

Analysts say the MDC and ZANU PF do not want to see the coalition government collapse because both stand to benefit from its continued existence. But they warn that never-ending squabbling between the two biggest parties in the coalition could cripple the administration and damage its long-term effectiveness.