Mbeki in private visit to Zim
By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
Harare – Former South African President Thabo Mbeki was in Zimbabwe on Monday this week for what officials called a private visit during which he met President Mugabe.
South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mphakama Mbete told the media that Mbeki was in Zimbabwe at the invitation of President Mugabe.
“President Mugabe and President Mbeki became close friends during the Government of National Unity and had not met for a long time. They met briefly in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) during the African Union meeting, but President Mugabe indicated he wanted to meet former President Mbeki here. They were discussing experiences in South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as the issue of liberation movements as indicated by President Mugabe last month,” said Ambassador Mbete.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is said to have also attended the meeting between President Mugabe and Mbeki.
Although speculation was rife that Mbeki’s visiting could be linked to the internecine factional fights within the governing Zanu-PF party, officials said the visit was prescheduled and touched on broader regional issues.
Mbeki played a critical mediation role during the consummation of Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity comprising Zanu-PF, the MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-N then led by Professor Arthur Mutambara.
The negotiations followed the 2008 presidential election re-run, won by President Mugabe but opposition political parties disputing the outcome which led to a negotiated settlement mediated by President Mbeki.
Tsvangirai had led in the March 2008 polls, but failed to garner the requisite 50+1, meaning the election had to go for a re-run. The opposition leader, however, boycotted the re-run, alleging violence against his supporters, which Mugabe won by more than 80 percent of the vote.
Preliminary talks to set up conditions for official negotiations began between leading negotiators from both parties on 10 July with party leaders from the three political parties meeting for the first time on 22 July 2008.
A final deal was reached on 11 September 2008 with President Mugabe remaining the President while Tsvangirai became Prime Minister with Mutambara being the Deputy Prime Minister. The deal was signed on 15 September 2008.