Sadc heads fume over ‘Group of Elders’

Sadc leaders are furious with the “Group of Elders” for trying to nudge them into discussing Zimbabwe’s internal matters, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi has said.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Minister Mumbengegwi — who attended last week’s Sadc Summit in Swaziland with President Mugabe, said regional leaders had been assured that the situation in Zimbabwe was under control in the aftermath of violent opposition demonstrations in Harare.

He said though Zimbabwe was not on the agenda, one Head of State said he received a letter from the “Group of Elders” imploring Sadc to facilitate “a transition in Zimbabwe”.

Other leaders promptly attacked “Group of Elders” members Mr Koffi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ms Graca Machel for trying to “treat them as puppets”.

Minister Mumbengegwi said, “There was no discussion on Zimbabwe, but one country did mention that it had received this letter from three people who said they were part of an NGO calling itself ‘The Elders’.

“The Heads of State were actually quite angry about that letter. They said, ‘These three think that we are puppets. Summit should reject this attempt by the three individuals to set an agenda for us.’

“The Head of State who had brought it said, ‘I agree that we should reject it totally. I just wanted to find out if others had received the letter that I received.’ It turned out that the majority of Heads of State, including Zimbabwe, had not received the letter which was unanimously thrown out in the end.

“In Sadc, we have our own way of doing things if we think something needs to be done. In this particular case, no one thinks there is anything that needs to be done.”

Minister Mumbengegwi said there was evidence “rejected sellout politicians” behind the violence in Harare and the “Group of Elders” had colluded.

“Without that incident, it would not have been possible for them to write such a letter. They were sort of saying, ‘Have you done it?’ And (the opposition) said, ‘Yes, yes, we have burnt a few cars and looted a few shops.’ (The group) then said, ‘We are now going to write the letter to Sadc.’

“If Sadc is going to be an organisation that — whenever there is a demonstration in any country —puts that country on the agenda, then all Sadc countries will end up on the agenda!

“Just look at Sadc and consider the number of demonstrations (that have been staged). In fact, a demonstration is a democratic right within Sadc, but it must be peaceful and lawful.”

Minister Mumbengegwi said the “Elders” should direct their energies elsewhere.

“No one is quite sure as to whose elders they are, but what is clear is that it’s a self-appointed group. They don’t represent anyone.

‘‘It is quite clear that they are willing to be used as agents of certain powers. That appears to be the main purpose of their self-appointed status as ‘elders’.

“They seem to have an obsession with Zimbabwe … They have consistently and persistently tried to get reasons and excuses for intervention in Zimbabwe in order to change the political order in our country.

“One of them is Graca Machel. I don’t want to say unkind words about the woman, but, really, what makes her think she is qualified to write to Heads of State and Government in Sadc, telling them what to do?

“The other one is Kofi Annan; a long long retired Secretary-General of the United Nations. His successor is completing his second term, so what makes him think he is still the Secretary-General of the UN?

“And then the third is one by the name Desmond Tutu; once the Archbishop of Cape Town. He retired from that position a long time ago. (Being) an Archbishop of a church does not make you a politician or an expert on what is happening in (another) country.”

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