A group of former pre-eminent persons including former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan and wife of the late Nelson Mandela Graca Machel known as the Elders has called on the leaders of the Southern African Development Community to consider supporting a smooth transition in Zimbabwe.
It is not clear what prompted the Elders to make the appeal but they said they firmly believed that a successful transition was not only vital for Zimbabwe but for the region as a whole.
Zimbabwe is due to hold elections in 2018 but President Robert Mugabe has been under siege over the past few months because of the economic melt-down.
Some activists have given Mugabe until the end of this month to step down.
In a statement today, The Elders said Zimbabwe was on the verge of an important transition which if handled well could lead to a peaceful and democratic change of leadership and a renewed focus on social and economic development.
The statement was issued ahead of the SADC summit which will be held in Mbabane, Swaziland next week.
“We firmly believe that a successful transition is vital not only for Zimbabwe but also for the region […] we are also convinced that, if the transition process is to succeed, it must be inclusive, transparent and framed in the national interest,” the Elders wrote.
The statement was co-signed by Kofi Annan, chair of the Elders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former chair, who is now an Honorary Elder, and Graça Machel, the co-founder of the Elders with her late husband, Nelson Mandela.
The Elders believe the upcoming summit is an important opportunity to reflect on how best SADC can help Zimbabwe manage the complex challenges ahead.
The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan (Chair), Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland (Deputy Chair), Hina Jilani, Ricardo Lagos, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Ernesto Zedillo.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu are Honorary Elders.