Zuma special envoys in Zimbabwe for talks in midst of ‘coup’

Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe,
Zimbabwe military Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe,
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

President Jacob Zuma’s special envoys to Zimbabwe arrived in Harare on Wednesday evening for talks with embattled President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF).

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo left the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria at 6pm and landed shortly after 7.30pm.

Zuma dispatched them in his capacity as chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The pair have been tasked with holding talks with the besieged 93-year-old leader and Zimbabwean army generals‚ who have so far denied their military takeover on Wednesday morning was a coup.

There has been no word on what time the meetings were planned to start.

Zimbabwe’s military seized power on Wednesday‚ saying it was holding Mugabe and his family safe while targeting “criminals” around him.

A statement issued by the SADC said Zuma had called for a meeting of the SADC Organ Troika and the chairman of the SADC Council of Ministers to discuss the unfolding political and security situation in Zimbabwe.

The meeting is expected to be held in Gaborone‚ Botswana‚ on Thursday.

“The meeting will be attended by the ministers responsible for foreign or external affairs from the SADC Organ Troika Member States‚ namely‚ the Republic of Angola‚ United Republic of Tanzania and Republic of Zambia‚ plus the SADC Council Chairperson‚ who is the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation for South Africa (Maite Nkoana-Mashabane)‚” the statement read.

Earlier on Wednesday Zuma said a special envoy would be dispatched to Angola to brief Angolan President and Chairman of the SADC Organ on Politics‚ Defence and Security João Lourenço.

Sources with knowledge of the situation said the envoys were on a fact-finding mission and would not mediate in talks between the governing party Zanu-PF and the ZDF.

Zuma has called for “calm and restraint” and for the ZDF to ensure “peace and stability are not undermined”.

Meanwhile‚ African Union (AU) Commission chairman Moussa Faki has thrown his weight behind Zuma on the Zimbabwean crisis.

In a statement‚ Faki expressed the commitment of the AU to “working closely with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the leaders of the region‚ and to support their efforts”.

“In this regard‚ the AU associates itself with the statement made by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa on behalf of SADC‚” he said. 

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