President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa arrived in Zimbabwe Saturday for talks with President Robert Mugabe and other political leaders to try and break the country’s electoral impasse.
Mbeki was appointed by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to mediate in a long-running political stand-off between the opposition and the Zimbabwe government, both of which last week lodged claims for power after controversial presidential elections in March and June.
His mediation role was endorsed last week by the African Union, which together with SADC is seeking a negotiated settlement and a possible government of national unity in Zimbabwe.
Officials said Mbeki was also due to meet opposition leaders, who have sought to replace him as mediator for alleged bias in favour of Mugabe.
Both sides in Zimbabwe’s political divide have agreed to talk to each other, but have set difficult conditions for dialogue.
The opposition, which won the March presidential election but by an insufficient margin for outright victory, has demanded that talks with the government be based on the outcome of that election, and not the second round, one-sided vote in June won by Mugabe.
The government, on the other hand, is demanding Mugabe’s recognition as head of state, based on the outcome of the June run-off.
Both sides are claiming leadership of the country, based on the results of the two elections.
It is this latest stand-off, officials said, that Mbeki was expected to focus on. Panapress.