Tuesday, January 14th 2003

Mugabe may retire in Malaysia

By Yap Mun Ching

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may be retiring in exile in Malaysia under a potential power-sharing deal between the African country’s ruling and opposition parties to stave off famine and economic collapse.
According to several South African press reports, ongoing negotiations between two top officials in Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and Zimbabwean opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have included the “critical element” of Mugabe’s resignation.
The Cape Town-based News24 said today that the British government — the former colonial ruler which continues to take a strong interest in Zimbabwe’s affairs — had reached a tentative agreement with Malaysian authorities to grant Mugabe and his family political asylum.
In the report, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was quoted as saying that Mugabe is likely to “go outside the country (Zimbabwe)” as he could feel “insecure” after stepping down. However, it is not known when any such resignation would take effect.
The unprecedented negotiations between the Zimbabwean parties came about following “deep dismay” within the ruling party over the deterioration of country’s economy as a result of several poorly planned economic policies over the past decade.
Aside from fuel shortages, triple-digit inflation and collapse of state infrastructure, the country is now poised to face a famine which could affect more than half of its 11 million population.

Tuesday January 14 2003

Zimbabwe's ruling party denies plan for Mugabe's
retirement or power-sharing

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Zimbabwe's ruling party on Monday dismissed reports that longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe would retire as part of a plan to set up a power-sharing government to end the country's political and economic crisis.
Nathan Shamuyarira, secretary for information in Mugabe's party, accused Britain, the former colonial ruler, of being behind reports the increasingly dictatorial president would step down in a deal with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. "It is not correct. It is a mixture of wishful thinking and mischief on the part of the British," he told reporters at the headquarters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front party in Harare.
Independent mediators trying to end the country's political crisis said Sunday two of the ruling party's most powerful figures - Parliament speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa and armed forces chief of staff Gen. Vitalis Zvinavashe - proposed Mugabe's retirement in hopes of regaining international legitimacy and renewed aid and investment for the country during a period of transitional rule.
The mediators, fearing allegations of treason if the offer collapsed, spoke on condition of anonymity.
MDC officials also denied the existence of the offer on Monday.
However, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told The Associated Press on Sunday that he had received the offer. He said his party's legislators were ready to vote with the ruling party for a constitutional amendment allowing the creation of a caretaker government once Mugabe stepped down.
The power-sharing government would aim to end an economic meltdown that has left at least half Zimbabwe's population on the verge of starvation.
There was no suggestion Tsvangirai would head a caretaker government, though his party would be offered a small number of cabinet posts, the mediators said.
Shamuyarira said Monday that Britain backed the opposition and wanted to see Tsvangirai installed in power.
"The British would like to see that happening, but it is not going to happen," he said.
Mugabe's whereabouts were unclear Monday. There was no official word on his scheduled return from a two-week vacation abroad.
His office in Harare said he was in Thailand on Friday and was to visit Malaysia and Singapore on his way home.
In another reversal of opposition policy, Tsvangirai said any agreement on Mugabe's resignation would include guarantees of immunity from trial over alleged misrule and human rights violations during his 23 years in power. He also could remain in the country if he wished.
Malaysia has reportedly been approached to offer Mugabe sanctuary if he chose to leave.
Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe to independence in 1980, won a new six-year term in elections last March that independent observers said were deeply flawed. The MDC, along with Britain, the European Union and the United States, have refused to accept the results, saying voting was rigged and influenced by violence and intimidation.
Mugabe has defended the often-violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms since 2000 as a justified struggle by landless blacks to correct colonial era injustices which left 4,000 whites owning one third of the country's productive land.
Disruptions in the agriculture-based economy and erratic rains have caused acute shortages of hard currency, gasoline, food and essential imports.