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Zimbabwe: Mbeki hails Govt, MDC attitude
Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Herald

SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki yesterday said he had been encouraged by the attitude of Zimbabwe's Government and the opposition since being tasked by Sadc to mediate their differences, as Russia threw its weight behind the Sadc initiative to assist Zimbabwe revive its economy.

"We . . . are encouraged in this regard by the positive attitude evinced by the protagonists in that country," Mr Mbeki told Members of Parliament in Cape Town during debate on the presidency's annual budget.

The parties, Mr Mbeki said, "do recognise that the people of Zimbabwe expect of them nothing less than concrete action to extricate them from the difficulties they face currently".

Mr Mbeki was asked in March by fellow Sadc leaders at an extraordinary summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to mediate between the Government and the MDC ahead of elections next year.

His team has been in touch with both sides but he has yet to meet directly with either President Mugabe or MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on the issue.

President Mbeki reiterated yesterday that "we intend to move with speed in executing this mandate".

On Monday President Mugabe once again reached out to the MDC to work with the Government on matters of national interest.

Acknowledging the presence of MDC Senators and Members of the House of Assembly at the commissioning of agricultural equipment in Harare, Cde Mugabe said such events should unite the Government and the opposition despite their political differences.

"It's a national event . . . that realisation is important that there must be occasions when we must be together. After all, we eat together. Nyaya yekudya inyaya yedu tese, hapana asingararame nekudya. Kana toita politics dzekutukana tinenge taguta," the President said to applause by guests.

Leading MDC officials were among the first beneficiaries of the farm mechanisation programme, who will get tractors, planters and combine harvesters, among other equipment, bought by the Reserve Bank.

Reserve Bank Governor Dr Gideon Gono said the programme cuts across the political and social divide.

"Feeding the country may not be left to one region, political party, gender or business community, but is a shared responsibility," said Dr Gono.

President Mugabe has repeatedly urged the opposition to be nationalistic, homegrown and to join forces with the Government to defend Zimbabwe's sovereignty and independence.

In Harare, outgoing Russian Ambassador Mr Oleg Scherbak yesterday said his country was confident the Sadc initiative would see Zimbabwe overcome its problems.

Mr Scherbak said Zimbabwe was going through a challenging time in its post-colonial history.

"We believe the country will surmount all its current difficulties and in the end things will mend. That is why we welcome the latest Sadc initiative on Zimbabwe as a comprehensive package," he said at a function to mark the Russian national day.

The ambassador said his country would continue to advance a constructive international agenda and was convinced that the best way to settle critical situations was about engagement in dialogue and not about isolation of any country.

Russia foreign policy priorities, he said, were to focus much on Africa.

"Today we see African countries vigorously joining the global process and by that vindicating once again that exclusive zones of influence which have become a thing of the past. A broad field of constructive action is opened here for Russia and its business community," he said.

Mr Scherbak said his country's stable economic growth had enabled it to contribute to concerted efforts at the international community and bilateral level to support sustainable development of Africa.

By the end of this year, he said, Russia would have cancelled some US$500 million of poor African countries' debts.

The total amount of Africa's debts written off by Russia in recent years would come to US$11,8 billion.

Mr Scherbak said he was confident that the time-tested co-operation between Russia and Africa would continue to grow since all necessary prerequisites for this were already in place.

"At present there is every reason to assess the relationship between Russia and Zimbabwe on the same lines. There is no doubt about their good future," he said.

Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Cde Reuben Marumahoko commended the relations between the two countries. He said the ties were premised on a solid foundation in the spirit of true friendship and co-operation dating back from the days of the liberation struggle.

Cde Marumahoko said Zimbabwe attached great importance to the partnership with Russia, emphasising the need to broaden the bilateral co-operation in the economic, technical and cultural fields.

"Zimbabwe appreciates the efforts by the Russian government to enrich our human resources base through the award of annual scholarships for study in Russia. Many Zimbabweans from both the public and private sectors have benefited immensely from these scholarships," he said.

However, Cde Marumahoko noted that the strong political ties that bound the two countries had not fully translated into the economic sphere as demonstrated by the low volume of trade between them. — AFP/Herald Reporters.

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