THABO Mbeki’s briefing to the media after the Sadc summit held in Johannesburg on August 17.
Questions and answers
Question: Mr President I would like to know if you have any sense of when we can expect to see a final agreement signed by the negotiating parties in Zimbabwe? Can you also give us a sense of the concerns around the outstanding agreements?
Answer: It is clearly not possible to say when the negotiations would be concluded. It is a matter of the negotiating parties convening to look at whatever matter might be outstanding. One cannot allocate a date to this and the Sadc Organ did not indicate a date by which this matter should be concluded with regard to the completion of this process, except to indicate the urgency of the matter. So, it is not possible to say when the negotiations would be concluded.
Q: Mr President, you said that the Organ agreed that the documents provided form a good basis on which to conclude the negotiations. Does that mean that you feel that there is no need to negotiate over the documents?
A: I am not aware if this communiquÃ© has been distributed. You will see that that particular paragraph expresses the strong opinion of the Extraordinary Summit of the Sadc Organ having studied the documents to which I referred earlier, came to that conclusion looking at those documents relative to the decisions/resolutions of Sadc and the African Union on the matter, expressed that opinion but said that negotiations should continue and that would include concluding negotiations and signing any outstanding agreements as a matter of urgency.
So essentially, what the Extraordinary Summit was saying was that negotiations should continue but of course, having had the possibility for the first time of looking at the entirety of the documentation, the Organ felt it should express its own view about this because bearing in mind, these two resolutions – Sadc and the African Union – so, it says that negotiations need to continue but it is of that view with regard to the quality and extent of the work that has already been done by the Zimbabwean negotiators that they have produced a set of documents that in the view of the Organ do indeed address the issues that were raised in these two resolutions and to that extent, they believe form a good basis for a speedy resolution of outstanding matters but that the negotiations must of course, continue.
Q: Mr President, what are the outstanding issues in the agreement?
A: Let me explain something before we get more questions. I am speaking here not as the facilitator but as the chair of Sadc. Now you are asking me to get involved in a discussion that deals with the facilitation and I must say that I cannot answer questions posed to the facilitator.
I can answer questions posed to the chair of Sadc but bear in mind that there is an agreement in the facilitation process arrived at by all the parties that we would not handle the process of negotiations through the media and indeed I am sure you will remember this because it is also included in the Memorandum of Understanding so to that extent, there is a limitation that is imposed with regard to how much detail we can express but that is a matter that belongs to the facilitation process.
But with regard to what the Organ discussed I think it is properly and fully reflected in the communiquÃ© of the Extraordinary Summit of the Organ.
Q: Mr President, yesterday, when you were speaking as the chair of Sadc, you said that the negotiations needed to be concluded to extricate the Zimbabwean people from the dire situation in which they find themselves. Could you give us an impression of what you see as the humanitarian urgency for a deal?
A: What drove Sadc in the first place to last year convene an extraordinary Summit of the Organ in Dar-es-Salaam in March to discuss Zimbabwe – there were other matters on the agenda like the DRC and so on – was driven by very serious concerns about the matter you have referred to, the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe.
And the discussions that have taken place over the last three days focused us on really trying to assist to speed up the process of the conclusion of the negotiations and the implementation of the agreements that would come from these negotiations. It is driven precisely by these very deep seated concerns in the region that the political concerns must be created so that with the greatest urgency this humanitarian, economic and social condition in Zimbabwe can be addressed as a matter of urgency by an inclusive government.
So it is a matter of fundamental concern to the region – this socio-economic and humanitarian condition of the people of Zimbabwe. But we believe that we need this inclusive government to drive this process of addressing these challenges but this consideration of the humanitarian situation of the people of Zimbabwe is fundamental to all of the statements that are made and this decision of Sadc emphasising the urgency of this matter. It is not just to address the political stability but also to create the conditions so that you have an inclusive government that would then address these other urgent issues.
Q: Mr President, as the chair of Sadc, do you believe that any deal that leaves President Mugabe with any power is going to be acceptable to the international donor community and is it going to be a long-term solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe?
A: The two resolutions that bind the facilitation – the first one said specifically that could the facilitator please get the ruling party and the opposition to meet and discuss in order to resolve the political challenges facing Zimbabwe.
The African Union resolution said the same thing. And so, we have indeed been working over this period with the ruling party and the MDC led by Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC led by Professor Mutambara and the decision that will be reached about what needs to happen will come from the Zimbabwean parties.
It certainly would not be correct for the facilitator to hand down any prescriptions to say that the person or group that should be part of the inclusive government to which these parties have agreed so it would be a matter really that the Zimbabwean parties would agree to – who is in that inclusive government and the role that they would play in that inclusive government.
That must truly come from the Zimbabwe parties because I think of all of us, they know best what is good for Zimbabwe and the thing is that everybody – the facilitator, Sadc, the international community – would have to respect what the Zimbabwe political leadership says about Zimbabwe and I am quite certain that the Zimbabwe political parties would answer the question you have posed on the basis of what they think is right for Zimbabwe, what they think is required in Zimbabwe.
It is not any determination that can, nor indeed should, be made by anybody. Let’s really allow the people of Zimbabwe to determine their future. This is critically important because any solution that is imposed from outside will not last, it will not last, unless it is a common product that is owned by this entire collective of the leadership of Zimbabwe. I think if the facilitation tried to impose any solution we would be creating a situation that actually would amount to creating conditions for the failure of whatever might be incorrectly described as a solution.
*The South African Department of Foreign Affairs recorded the briefing.