African Union calls for unity government in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's opposition rejects calls for a unity government, however, citing perceived bias of mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki.
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The AU's resolution contrasted strongly with the call by Zimbabwe's neighbor, Botswana, urging the AU to exclude Mugabe from future meetings by the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). "In our considered view, the representatives of the current government in Zimbabwe should be excluded from attending SADC and AU meetings," Botswanan Vice President Mompati Merafhe said in a statement.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet the AU's emphasis on dialogue between the MDC and Mugabe means that the AU has punted back to South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has served over the last year as the designated mediator for the 16 nations of SADC. Mr. Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" with Mugabe has earned him more criticism than praise, and his tendency to protect Mugabe – flying in to Harare amid a wave of post-election violence against opposition members and declaring at Mugabe's side that there is "no crisis in Zimbabwe" – have more than once prompted the MDC to request his replacement by someone seen by everyone as impartial.
President Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, expressed satisfaction with the AU resolution, saying, "We will continue to work with the Zimbabweans and we are convinced that the challenges will be resolved."
The MDC is not impressed with Mbeki's efforts, claiming that he is biased in favor of Mugabe. "The MDC's reservations about the mediation process under President Mbeki are well known," reads a statement issued Wednesday by the MDC. "It is our position that unless the mediation team is expanded to include at least one permanent representative from the African Union, and the mediation mechanism is changed, no meaningful progress can be made toward resolving the Zimbabwean crisis. If this does not happen, then the MDC will not be part of such a mediation process."
The "sham election" on June 27, which Tsvangirai pulled out of, "totally and completely exterminated any prospects of a negotiated settlement," said Tendai Biti, the MDC's secretary general. Mr. Biti is currently out on bail, after his arrest two weeks ago on charges of treason and writing articles that were insulting to Mugabe.
Analyst Chris Maroleng says that the current "asymmetry of power" between Mugabe and the opposition – Mugabe retains control over the Army, police, intelligence, judiciary, and all organs of government – makes any talk of a government of national unity impractical.
"A government of national unity at this stage is a nonstarter," says Maroleng. Unless there is a complete restructuring of the Constitution, a change in the executive powers of the presidency, any power-sharing deal at this point would tilt the advantage, permanently, in the favor of Mugabe. "It's placing icing over a rotten core. It would look nice, but underneath, it would still be rotten."