An Extraordinary summit meeting of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to review regional peace and security began on March 29 in Dar es Salaam. The meeting was called to discuss the situation in the Congo, the recent elections in Lesotho and especially the political situation in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government newspaper the Herald explained that President Kikwete had visited the country on March 15 and held talks with ‘Comrade Mugabe’ to brief him about his visits to Europe and discussions that ‘always cropped up there about Zimbabwe’. The Herald also reported that between March 15 and March 25, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) conspirators had petrol-bombed several police stations resulting in serious injury to police officers and destruction of property. Later, the MDC ‘thugs’ had petrol-bombed a train, injuring five people, a supermarket in Harare, and the ruling Zanu-PF district offices in Mbare. Western powers, led by Britain and the United States, had openly sided with the MDC despite the trail of violence and destruction the paper said. It went on: While Britain had managed to influence the EU to take a position against Zimbabwe, it was finding it difficult to so with SADC countries.
Western governments were criticizing SADC for not doing enough to resolve it. President Kikwete, who hosted the summit amid growing Western calls for a tough line on Mugabe`s political crackdown, said the regional grouping appealed to all sides in the dispute to step back from the brink. “Of course the appeal to parties is to be cooperative and give this initiative a chance, also for the parties to exercise restraint and avoid anything that’s going to inflame the situation,” he said. “I believe through open and frank discussions we will be able to diagnose properly the political and security problems facing our region and decide on a course of action to deal with them.”
The statement issued at the end of the summit shocked Zimbabwe’s opposition and disappointed many people outside the country who do not appreciate how extremely popular Mugabe has become on the African continent after fighting so hard for the independence of his country and for driving out most of its white farmers. The statement called on Britain to honour its commitments to fund Zimbabwe’s land reforms, and called on the West to drop sanctions against Mugabe`s government. It asked South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki to facilitate political dialogue in Zimbabwe.