Tendai Biti, who has been trying to form a unity government between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday that Mugabe was increasingly surrounded by a new, democratic breed of leader. Biti singled out Botswana’s President Seretse Ian Khama, who has condemned state-sponsored political violence in Zimbabwe and called for internationally supervised elections to resolve its leadership crisis.
Mugabe’s long-ruling ZANU-PF party responded by accusing its neighbor Botswana of training militants to overthrow him, charges that Khama and Biti dismissed. Biti said the accusations were the sort of "grandstanding" and "nonsense" Mugabe’s neighbors were no longer prepared to accept.
"With Mugabe, you’re dealing with a very arrogant, very experienced dictator," Biti said. "You’ve got to deal with Mugabe, first, with courage. Second, you’ve got to have a game plan."
Increasingly, Biti said, African leaders were bravely saying to Mugabe: "You’re wrong, wake up."
As for a game plan, Biti said he expected leaders at Sunday’s Southern African Development Community summit in Johannesburg to press for what the opposition sees as a fair division of Cabinet posts in a proposed unity government. The opposition in particular wants the ministries that control police and finance – posts Mugabe has tried to claim unilaterally for ZANU-PF.
Biti said Zimbabweans needed an urgent solution, but that they could not expect a dramatic breakthrough at Sunday’s one-day summit. That did not mean the opposition was ready to abandon the regional bloc’s mediation effort, which has been under way for a year.
"You make progress in small steps," Biti said.
Earlier Saturday, Human Rights Watch recommended the leaders meeting Sunday seek more help from the U.N. and the African Union. Human Rights Watch has long questioned the strategy of the regional bloc’s mediator, former South African President Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki says confronting Mugabe would be counterproductive.