Magazine article New African

Zimbabwe: Regime Change Was Not Discussed; Contrary to Media Reports, Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Olusegun Obasanjo and Bakili Muluzi Did Not Discuss "Regime Change" or an "Exit Plan" for Mugabe When They Went to Harare on 5 May. (around Africa)

Magazine article New African

Zimbabwe: Regime Change Was Not Discussed; Contrary to Media Reports, Presidents Thabo Mbeki, Olusegun Obasanjo and Bakili Muluzi Did Not Discuss "Regime Change" or an "Exit Plan" for Mugabe When They Went to Harare on 5 May. (around Africa)

Article excerpt

Much has been said, and reported, about "regime change" or an exit plan" in Zimbabwe, but when the three African presidents went to Harare on 5 May to meet with President Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, "regime change" or an "exit plan" was not discussed at all, according to Bheki Khumalo, President Mbeki's presidential spokesperson, who sat in the meetings. "The subject was not broached at all. I think that really was a figment of the imagination among sections of the press," Khumalo said in an interview published in Johannesburg on 7 May by allafrica.com.

Reminded by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton who conducted the interview that "regime change" or an "exit plan" was not really a figment of anyone's imagination, because President Mugabe himself had made references to it, Khumalo shot out: "Let me carry on! Let me carry on! I think everyone--and President Mugabe himself--accepts that he will have to step down at some point, but the matter was not discussed at the meeting. It was not the subject of the meeting. I mean he himself has said that, and I think people have got to accept that."

But people don't accept that, at least not in Britain and USA where there had been feverish speculation, before the three presidents arrived in Harare, that Washington and London were riding on the back of "African support" to force regime change in Zimbabwe.

Even after the visit, the British media made a lot of song and dance about the African presidents going to "sort out Mugabe". But as Khumalo has revealed, "sorting out Mugahe" was not on the agenda at all.

The official purpose of the visit, Khumalo said, was to get the two rival sides in Zimbabwe to begin a dialogue. The South African foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who accompanied Mbeki on the trip, told journalists on 6 May that "both parties tin Zimbabwe] are ready to start the dialogue. We welcome that development. The future of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of that leadership in Zanu-PF and the MDC."

She dismissed concerns that dialogue seemed to have been blocked by pre-conditions for talks by both parties. "Everybody has their opening lines in negotiations," she explained. …

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