Monday, 24 November 2008

Zimbabwe may soon collapse, say Annan, Carter

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Zimbabwe could soon collapse due to a political and economic crisis, South Africa's ANC leader Jacob Zuma said on Monday, setting out the opinion of prominent figures including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"They believe the situation is very bad. They believe things could collapse in a few months time in Zimbabwe," Zuma told reporters after meeting Annan, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and other prominent figures.

Annan, Carter and human rights champion Graca Machel, who is Nelson Mandela's wife, are part of a group of prominent figures and former statesmen called The Elders. They were barred by Zimbabwe from visiting to assess a humanitarian crisis there this weekend.

A cholera outbreak that has killed at least 294 people has seen hundreds of Zimbabweans infected with the disease streaming across the South African border to seek treatment, South African media reported on Monday.

The power struggle between President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has overshadowed daily hardships including food and fuel shortages and hyperinflation that have driven millions of Zimbabweans out of the country and strained regional economies.

Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a smaller MDC faction will meet former South African President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday to seek a breakthrough in stalled power-sharing talks, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said.

"The agreement is they will meet as of tomorrow and the facilitation team is working on that basis," Motlanthe told reporters after meeting Annan and Carter.

ANC leader Zuma said it was clear that Zimbabwe's crisis had deteriorated to such an extent that there was an urgent need for action.

"The situation has gone (beyond) where we could say 'wait and see'," he said, adding the ANC will be sending a delegation to Zimbabwe to assess the situation in the country.

"We are pleading for the leadership (of the ruling party and opposition) for the sake of the people to find a solution that would help them move forward," Zuma said.

Doubts have grown over Zimbabwe's Sept. 15 power-sharing agreement and Mugabe is trying to push through a constitutional amendment allowing him to name a cabinet alone, which could lead to the unravelling of the deal with the opposition.

Tsvangirai has refused to enter the government, accusing Mugabe of trying to grab the powerful ministries. The main obstacle in talks is the issue of who runs the home affairs ministry, which oversees the police.

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