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Sunday, 23 April, 2000, 22:01 GMT 23:01 UK
Questions over Zimbabwe summit
Victoria Falls summit: 'secret agreement' on Zimbabwe?
Victoria Falls summit: Headlines speak of 'secret deal'
Pretoria's "softly, softly" approach to resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe has drawn a mixed reaction in South Africa and elsewhere.

The Sunday Times newspaper said that at the mini-summit meeting in Victoria Falls on Friday President Mbeki had brokered a behind-the-scenes agreement on resolving the crisis over land ownership in Zimbabwe.

Under the headline "Mbeki in secret deal with Mugabe", the paper said that "despite public expressions of solidarity" by Mr Mbeki and other Southern African leaders with the Zimbabwean president, Mr Mugabe had "made significant concessions behind closed doors".

It said that President Mugabe had agreed to:

  • order war veterans to end their occupation of farms;
  • hold free and fair elections; and
  • tone down his "inflammatory rhetoric"

    In return, the paper said:

  • Britain had undertaken to fund his legal land reform programme;
  • hundreds of millions of rands in loan finance for Zimbabwe through the International Monetary Fund are to be unlocked;
  • South Africa will lobby international finance organisations and local businesses on Zimbabwe's behalf.

    The paper noted that at the press conference after the meeting in Victoria Falls, President Mugabe had not answered questions from the media.

    "Chissano, Nujoma and Mbeki dealt with media questions and repeatedly referred to the Zimbabwean president as a 'champion of the rule of law', saying he was 'committed to ending the violence' - utterances aimed at publicly committing him to sticking to the agreement," the paper wrote.

    Opposition concern

    The report of a deal sparked an immediate expression of concern from South Africa's opposition Democratic Party.

    Its leader, Tony Leon, called for details of the reported agreement to be made public.

    For President Mbeki... to shrug off responsibility for Mr Mugabe's self-made crisis onto... Britain is perverse

    Democratic Party leader Tony Leon

    "One of the key outstanding questions around Zimbabwe is what conditions, if any, have been attached to lines of credit and assistance for that country," he said.

    And he had harsh words for President Mbeki's approach to the issue.

    "For President Mbeki and others to shrug off responsibility for Mr Mugabe's self-made crisis onto the shoulders of the former colonial power, Britain, is perverse," he said.

    "It is worth reminding Presidents Mbeki and Mugabe that donor nations, including Britain, suspended funding for Zimbabwean land reform because of the absence of transparency and the corruption of the process.

    "President Mbeki's failure to even hint about concern for such aspects is a failure of will and courage."

    No need for 'Afro-pessimism'

    You don't have to stand up and shout

    South African Foreign Ministry spokesman

    But South African Foreign Ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said it would have been naive to expect President Mugabe's African peers to castigate him in public.

    "You don't have to stand up and shout labels," he told Reuters news agency.

    President Mbeki's aim was to broker a deal that would benefit the entire Zimbabwean population, he said.

    "We must be careful of feeding into this Afro-pessimistic view that projects African leaders as being incapable of resolving the continent's problems," Mr Mamoepa said.
    President Mbeki: quiet diplomacy
    President Mbeki: quiet diplomacy

    A South African government source told Reuters the President Mbeki had decided not to humiliate Mugabe, but to offer him a way out in a tough private deal backed by Britain and the United States.

    State visit put off

    President Mbeki has now postponed a state visit to Zimbabwe, scheduled to have taken place early in May, until after Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections. The visit had been criticized as inappropriate in that it would have been seen as an endorsement of President Mugabe.

    Mr Mbeki himself denied that South African money would be used to solve Zimbabwe's land problems.

    "I don't think it would be logical to expect that South Africa would be able to generate funds to address the land question," he told state television.

    "It's worse in South Africa, in fact. We need to generate funds to address the land question in South Africa."

    Backing for Mbeki's approach

    In an editorial entitled "Zimbabwe throws the dice one last time", the Sunday Times said that Mr Mbeki's decision to adopt "quiet diplomacy" towards Zimbabwe had been controversial, but it had paid off.

    "Had he been railing against Mugabe from the rooftops, he would not have been able to drive through the Good Friday agreement. He would have had the moral high ground but he would have been powerless to intervene directly with a head of state who has the region's stability in his hands," the paper said.

    "What he and his fellow heads of state - including those of Britain and the US - must show is that sensible policies lead to economic stability."


    The leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, had a more critical view of the outcome of Friday's meeting in Victoria Falls.

    "What did they support? If they supported Mugabe on land reform, we all agree there's need for land reform in this country," he said in a TV interview.

    "Whatever moral support they've given, this is the typical African apologizing for somebody's mistakes, without tackling the problems of human rights abuses."

    BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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    See also:

    21 Apr 00 | Africa
    Summit backs Mugabe on farms
    19 Apr 00 | Media reports
    SA media urges action on Zimbabwe
    17 Apr 00 | Media reports
    Mbeki to visit Zimbabwe 'soon'
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