Zimbabwe government bans visit by Mandela’s ‘Elders’

November 20th, 2008 - 5:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Harare/Johannesburg, Nov 20 (DPA) Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s regime has banned a visit planned by a distinguished group of international “Elders” to assess Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis, state media reported Thursday.The group was denounced by Harare as “a clique made up of personalities hostile to Zimbabwe,” the state-controlled daily Herald quoted an unnamed government source as saying.

The group was to be represented by former US president Jimmy Carter, former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan and Mozambican social activist and wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel,

In the regime’s first response to the two-day visit that was due to begin Saturday, it said, “(The) government would want to know whose mission they are representing and who they report to. This stems from documented and well-known attitudes by some of the group’s members towards Zimbabwe.

“The visit has been deemed a partisan mission by a group of people with partisan interests,” it said.

The three are members of the Elders, a grouping of former world figures and statesmen internationally respected for their integrity and concern for human rights, and includes South African Nobel peace prize winner and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who has been outspoken against the 84-year-old Mugabe, referring to him as “a caricature of an African dictator.”

The proposed visit coincides with what human rights groups say is a massive humanitarian disaster of famine, a cholera epidemic spiralling out of control, the collapse of health, social welfare and education services as the country withers under a 10-year economic crisis.

The Herald said the regime had advised the Elders that it was “not in a position to handle the visit at this time of the year.”

“They have been advised that while it (the government) appreciates the humanitarian concern by the group, it was important for them to plan their visit on a date that is convenient and agreed to by both sides.”

It said the government was engaged in negotiations for the establishment of a power-sharing government and “busy on its agricultural activities” for the summer cropping season.

Political analysts say it is routine for Mugabe’s government to use unnamed “government sources” to make major announcements in the state propaganda media.

The “source” dismissed the proposed visit as “a planned rescue package” for the Movement for Democratic Change of pro-democracy leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has refused to accept current mediation efforts after Mugabe allocated all the key cabinet positions in the proposed power-sharing interim government to his Zanu-PF party.

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