Mbeki's Zimbabwe role up to SADC -South Africa minister

NEW YORK – South Africa's foreign minister said on Wednesday she was confident that former President Thabo Mbeki would continue mediating power-sharing talks in Zimbabwe if he is asked by the Southern African Development Community.

Mbeki’s role in the process, now deadlocked over cabinet appointments, has been in doubt since he was ousted last month by his ruling African National Congress after accusations of meddling in the corruption case against ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC said on Wednesday only mediation could end a deadlock in talks with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF on forming a cabinet.

The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), which asked Mbeki in 2007 to mediate in neighboring Zimbabwe, has said the resignation would have no impact on Mbeki’s role as a mediator. The ANC also indicated support for him to continue.

"I think if he’s asked, (Mbeki) will continue because I think he was not just doing it just because he happens to be president," Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma told a small group of reporters in New York.

"He’s convinced that all the assistance should be given to Zimbabwe," she said during a briefing on her visit to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

She said an agreement brokered last month by Mbeki spelled out that there were three guarantors for its implementation — SADC, the African Union and the facilitator himself.

"When there’s a problem the guarantors must come in and try and do something about it," Dlamini Zuma said. "Whether president Mbeki himself will continue, of course that’s a matter for SADC because he was appointed by SADC."

Mbeki faced criticism for not taking a tougher stand on Mugabe, but he scored a coup in mediating the Sept. 15 power-sharing deal. Reuters

Dlamini Zuma said the South African government under Mbeki’s successor would continue to be involved and assist in the process. She said she did not see differences between Mbeki’s position on Zimbabwe and that of the ruling African National Congress.

The talks between Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have reached an apparent impasse over who will control key ministries in the unity government to be established under the deal.

Asked about the possibility of Western countries led by Washington imposing more sanctions on Mugabe’s government, Dlamini Zuma said that would not be helpful.

"Whether you put sanctions or not, Zimbabwe needs a government," she said. "I don’t think sanctions will help in the process right now. What will help is really assisting them to be able to form a government."