unions want neutral leader to take charge

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

THE Congress of South African Trade Unions says it supports a call by the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions for a "neutral figure" to head a transitional administration in Zimbabwe.

Cosatu international secretary Bongani Masuku said "if there are two belligerents, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, we need an independent person like a reverend or a judge heading a transitional arrangement''.

Masuku was speaking after a meeting of the Southern African Trade Union Coordination Council executive in Botswana this weekend.

"We want to see a neutral person oversee the transition while preparing the environment for proper democratic elections," he said.

Masuku said Cosatu would mount a "huge protest" at the SADC heads of state summit in Sandton on August 16 to put pressure on the region's leaders to force Zimbabwe and Swaziland to hold democratic elections.

"Mugabe is not the only big problem in the region. Swaziland has not held democratic elections since 1973," he said.

The protest puts Cosatu on a collision course with President Thabo Mbeki, who takes over the SADC chairmanship at the meeting.

Mbeki has maintained cordial relations with King Mswati of Swaziland for years. He is also the official mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis.

Mbeki leads a new round of mediation from today. He is understood to prefer a government of national unity in Zimbabwe rather than a transitional arrangement leading to fresh elections.

But a Zanu-PF-led government of national unity, with the MDC as a junior partner, will be disastrous as it will not change the status quo for Zimbabweans," said political analyst Dale McKinley.

Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said the president was not promoting a government of national unity.

He said Mbeki would "support whatever decisions the Zimbabweans take".

"We are not going to talk to the media about the talks. We are not obliged to say where the talks are at because if the process is going to succeed there must be a measure of confidentiality."