Zimbabwe Opposition Asks Mandela to Persuade Mugabe to Step Down
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has asked former South African president Nelson Mandela to persuade President Robert Mugabe to step down, a senior party official said Monday.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai met Mandela in late September and asked him to get Mugabe to leave office before his presidential term ends in 2002, MDC deputy secretary-general Gift Chimanikire told SABC public radio.
"What we want him to do is talk to Mugabe and make him see sense that it is in the interest not only of Zimbabwe but of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries for him to step down and allow his party and the MDC to seek the people's mandate to run Zimbabwe," Chimanikire said.
Chimanikire said the party approached 82-year-old Mandela because his stature as "an African statesman" would enable him to mediate with both the opposition and Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF.
Mandela's office Monday confirmed the meeting, but dismissed reports that Mandela was negotiating a dignified early departure for Mugabe as "a wild story."
But Mandela, an outspoken opponent of African leaders clinging to power, told a local newspaper in September he believed the time had come for Zimbabwe's only post-independence leader to go.
"I would have wished somebody would talk to him to say, 'look, you have been in office for 20 years, it's time to step down'," he told the Durban-based Daily News in an interview.
Mandela is not the only regional statesman Tsvangirai has approached on the matter.
Tsvangirai met Botswana government ministers in what he said was the start of a campaign to get regional leaders to push Mugabe to call early presidential elections.
The MDC on Wednesday launched a move to remove Mugabe from office on allegations of gross misconduct and violations of the constitution -- JOHANNESBURG (AFP)
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