"Tsvangirai on way to regional summit" – Mutambara

MBABANE – Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will attend an emergency regional summit aimed at breaking the deadlock over the formation of a power-sharing government, a rival opposition leader said on Monday.

Tsvangirai, who heads the Movement for Democratic Change, was due to arrive in Mbabane on Monday afternoon on a jet sent by Swaziland King Mswati III, Arthur Mutambara, the head of a breakaway MDC faction, told reporters in the Swazi capital.

"The king has sent a plane to collect Mr. Tsvangirai and we’re expecting him shortly," Mutambara said as he left for the airport in Mbabane to greet Tsvangirai.

Earlier Tsvangirai’s MDC said he had not been granted travel papers to attend the Southern African Development Community security committee meeting, which was called after weeks of fruitless negotiations over the allocation of cabinet positions.

Zimbabwean Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu dismissed the MDC claim as "a gimmick".

"That’s not true. He has been given a travel document. South Africa is mediating, how can they deny him passage?"

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is taking part in the Swaziland summit. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has mediated the crisis since 2007, and representatives of Swaziland, Angola and Tanzania also will attend.

Mutambara, who is also part of the power-sharing deal, had said the summit would have no legitimacy without Tsvangirai and added that he had demanded through Mbeki that it be cancelled if Tsvangirai was not included.

"In the context of the agreement what sort of goodwill is that?," asked Mutambara in a statement.

Tsvangirai has been trying for months to replace his passport, which is full. Zimbabwean authorities have issued him short-duration emergency travel documents in what Tsvangirai claims is a campaign to curb his diplomatic travels.

MEDIATION PROCESS QUESTIONED

There were signs of failure before the summit opened.

"There have been developments in the past 24 hours that make it incredibly difficult for the MDC to have confidence in the current mediation process. Their faith and hope in the current mediation process and its ability to deliver a solution to the people of Zimbabwe is now called into question," the MDC said in a statement.

Tsvangirai said on Sunday that he believed the parties would finalise a power-sharing deal at the meeting.

A September 15 agreement, brokered by Mbeki, may be Zimbabwe’s best hope for rescuing an economy where fuel and food are scarce and inflation stands at 231 million percent.

President Kgalema Motlanthe of economic powerhouse South Africa, the current chair of SADC, was leading a delegation to the meeting, according to South Africa’s department of foreign affairs.

In remarks published in a state-run newspaper on Sunday, ZANU-PF’s chief negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa, played down the issue of cabinet post allocations.

He insisted that Zimbabwe’s ruling party would not bow to pressure from SADC, which has become increasingly frustrated by Zimbabwe’s political turmoil.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in a presidential election on March 29 but with too few votes to avoid a June run-off, which was won by Mugabe unopposed after Tsvangirai pulled out, saying his supporters had been subjected to violence and intimidation.