The United States no longer supports the September 15 power-sharing agreement between Zimbabwe's government, led by Robert Mugabe, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, the State Department's top envoy to Africa said, adding that Mugabe is incapable of sharing power.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer spoke in South Africa December 21 after consulting with regional leaders about Zimbabwe's continued economic and political chaos and the country's cholera epidemic, which has now claimed more than 1,120 lives.
Speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP), Frazer said: "We have lost confidence in the power-sharing deal being a success with Mugabe in power. He has lost touch with reality."
The agreement, brokered by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, was supposed to result in a coalition government between Mugabe and the MDC, with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai serving as prime minister. However, talks broke down over the government's refusal to grant the political opposition control over key ministries. (See "'Well Past Time' for Zimbabwe's Mugabe to Leave, Rice Says.")
On March 29, Zimbabwe held presidential and parliamentary elections. Despite violence, intimidation and a media environment that heavily favored Mugabe's ruling party, the MDC gained a majority in the country's parliament and Tsvangirai won more presidential votes than Mugabe or third-party challenger Simba Makoni.
However, according to official election results, Tsvangirai failed to receive more than 50 percent of the vote and a presidential runoff election was scheduled for June 27. In the weeks leading up to the runoff vote, a sustained campaign of violence and intimidation directed against the MDC prompted Tsvangirai to withdraw from the contest out of concern for the lives of his supporters. Mugabe then claimed victory in a vote widely condemned by the international community.
Frazer, based on her discussions in the region, said that Mugabe is "completely discredited" and southern African leaders are discussing how to "facilitate a return to democracy without creating a backlash like a military coup or some sort of civil war."
The United States intends to maintain its economic sanctions against Mugabe and other key members and associates of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) as long as Mugabe remains in power, she said.
"We were prepared to use American influence to negotiate with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to clear the $1.2 billion Zimbabwe debt, but now we are no longer prepared to do that," Frazer told AFP.
She added that the longer Mugabe maintains his grip, "the better the chances of him taking a seat next to Charles Taylor in The Hague," referring to the former Liberian president's trial at the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
SECRETARY RICE WEIGHS IN
In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continued U.S. calls for international pressure on Mugabe. Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press December 21, she said Zimbabwe's dire circumstances have prompted African states such as Botswana and Kenya to urge Mugabe to relinquish power.
"You've got a cholera epidemic there. You have humanitarian disaster in terms of food. You have the goons of the Mugabe regime going around and ... detaining people and ... frightening people, terrorizing people," Rice said. "The international community, in that circumstance, needs to act."
On December 19, Mugabe told reporters he was refusing to step down, saying, "Zimbabwe is mine."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said December 19 that Mugabe's statement "sums up in a concise way what is at the root of Zimbabwe's problems," by showing Mugabe "thinks that the state of Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe are there only to serve his interests."
"It should be the other way around. Those who govern should govern in the interest of the governed. The governed should be able to determine who governs them and in what manner," McCormack said.
Zimbabwe's people have been unable to freely express their views at the ballot box, McCormack said, recalling the country's June 27 sham presidential runoff, in which Mugabe ran unopposed.