Sunday, November 30, 2008

UNDP's Agostino Zacharias: -"Mugabe is a brand name and he should be protected.."

HARARE – United Nations resident representative to Zimbabwe Agostinho Zacharias has said the country could become a failed state in the mould of anarchic Somalia if current efforts to create a power-sharing government between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition flop.

Zacharias told a delegation of prominent figures led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that visited southern Africa a week ago to assess Zimbabwe’s escalating humanitarian crisis that Mugabe was interested in protecting his legacy and that of his ruling ZANU PF party.

He said power-sharing talks between ZANU PF and the opposition had not fully addressed the issue of what would happen to Mugabe and his lieutenants should they agree to give up power, hinting this was one issue also blocking quick resolution of Zimbabwe’s political crisis.

"When asked by Mr Annan what would be the future of Zimbabwe were no political agreement reached, Mr Zacharias replied that it would become a "Somalia", a failed state," Annan’s delegation said in a report made available to ZimOnline Sunday.

Annan, former US President Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, who are part of a group of prominent figures and former statesmen called The Elders, had planned to visit Zimbabwe from November 21 to 22 but were refused entry.

The Elders however proceeded to make an assessment of the country’s humanitarian crisis from Johannesburg, using information gathered during several meetings with representatives of regional governments, political leaders, aid agencies, business and civil society representatives from Zimbabwe.

Zacharias spoke to the Elders delegation during a meeting also attended by World Food Programme representative Alberto Mendes, acting UNICEF representative Roeland Monasch and the International Organisation for Migration’s Marcelo Pisani.

"When asked what President Mugabe wants, Mr Zacharias explained that his interest is that of protecting his legacy and that of his political party. At one point negotiators had proposed that he be appointed the founding President of Zimbabwe to protect him from prosecution, and that he enjoy this status of life," the Elders’ report said.

The report said Machel inquired whether there was more at stake than simply trying to ensure Mugabe's immunity from prosecution for human rights abuses and other wrongs committed during his nearly three decades in power.

"Mr Zacharias concurred that President Mugabe is a brand name, but that there are many others behind him who must also be protected,” the report said.

It said it was generally agreed that many ZANU PF leaders fear being prosecuted for past wrongdoings and that this "issue has not yet been fully addressed in power sharing talks”.

Annan’s group said that while it was desirable that Mugabe – whose controversial policies are blamed for ruining once prosperous Zimbabwe – steps down from power, his exit would have to be managed carefully or it could create a “power vacuum that would cause worse violence".

Zimbabwe’s rival political parties last Thursday signed a draft constitutional bill that – once passed by Parliament – will allow Mugabe to form a new unity government outlined under a September 15 power-sharing deal.

However a unity government is unlikely to be established anytime soon because of a variety of other issues that the main opposition MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai wants resolved before it can agree to join the government.

Tsvangirai’s party, which holds the most seats in Parliament and could very easily block passage of the constitutional amendment, wants further discussions on the sharing of key ministerial posts, distribution of gubernatorial posts, ambassadorships and other top government posts.

Analysts say a unity government would be best placed to tackle a severe economic crisis ravaging Zimbabwe and seen in the world’s highest inflation rate of 231 million percent, acute shortages of food and basic commodities. – ZimOnline

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