Annan and Jimmy Carter urged to postpone Zimbabwe visit by regime

The three, who belong to a group of former statesmen and prominent personalities known as the Elders, announced this week that they would visit Zimbabwe on Saturday to assess what they called the ‘‘escalating humanitarian crisis’’.

However, a Government source yesterday revealed that the group had been advised to defer the visit to a later date as Zimbabwe was currently occupied with the ongoing inclusive Government talks and preparations for the summer cropping season.

"The Elders wrote to Government on the intended visit but they have been advised that while it (Government) appreciates the humanitarian concern by the group, it was important for them to plan their visit on a date that is convenient and agreed to by both sides.

"Government also advised them to recognise that their intended visit had failed to recognise that Zimbabwe is currently in negotiations through Sadc facilitation and the country is currently busy on its agricultural activities and end of year programmes," the source said.

Zimbabwean authorities, the source said, had also indicated that they were not in a position to handle the visit at this time of the year.

The source also said the Government was concerned with the fact that the group is made up of personalities deemed hostile to Zimbabwe.

The authorities, the source added, were eager to know the community being represented by the clique.

"Government would want to know whose mission they are representing and who they report to. This stems from documented and well-known attitudes by some of the group’s members towards Zimbabwe," he said.

Mr Annan and South African clergyman Bishop Desmond Tutu, also a member of the Elders, have in the past been openly critical of President Mugabe and his administration.

The source said there were also indications that the visit was a planned rescue package to MDC-T in its efforts to divert current Sadc initiatives for a political resolution and make the issue a crisis that warrants the intervention of the United Nations Security Council.

"The visit has been deemed a partisan mission by a group of people with partisan interests," the source said.
In his statement, Mr Annan said the mission was to revive global attention on the Zimbabwean situation.
He said the Elders had planned to make a first-hand assessment of how to effectively respond to the situation and "its spillover effects on neighbouring countries".

"We hope that our visit will also add momentum to the global response to longer-term issues of reform and development once an inclusive Government is in place and operational.

"It is crucial that the international community supports a Zimbabwe-led process of recovery and provides sufficient funding

for its implementation," Mr Annan said.

The former UN secretary-general also urged the political leadership "to move swiftly to fully implement the September 15 agreement, particularly the provisions on humanitarian and food assistance".

"Delays in forming a Government are prolonging the suffering of the people," he was quoted as saying.