sadc under siege

Dudu Busani and Sapa

Dudu Busani and Sapa

While African leaders opened the one-day SADC summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg yesterday, protesters outside sent a clear message: "We are sick and tired of being failed by our leaders."

Innocent Muteredziwa, 18, who has been in South Africa for a year insists that the power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe will be an insult to democracy.

"Why the power sharing deal? [Robert] Mugabe lost the election. He has shown that he does not want to share," said Muteredziwa.

Inside, the African leaders grappled with the long-simmering crisis in Zimbabwe and a new humanitarian catastrophe in Congo.

They lamented that war and conflict stand in the way of development in the world's poorest continent.

President Kgalema Motlanthe opened yesterday's extraordinary SADC summit with a call for a cease-fire so humanitarian aid can reach those displaced by fighting in eastern Congo.

In recent weeks Congo's east has been engulfed in fighting involving rebels, government soldiers and pro-government militiamen.

The world's largest United Nations peacekeeping contingent has struggled to protect civilians in eastern Congo.

The peace keepers' "current mandate limits their ability to become real peacemakers and provide for a lasting solution," Motlanthe said yesterday

Congolese president Joseph Kabila attended the meeting of the regional bloc, whose 15 members include sprawling Congo and several of its neighbours.

A year ago, the bloc appointed Motlanthe's predecessor Thabo Mbeki to mediate in the dispute between Zimbabwean president Mugabe and his political opposition.

The Zimbabwean opposition is pressing leaders at the summit to call for a fair division of cabinet posts in a proposed unity government.