"Indeed, our region faces some daunting challenges ... However complex and difficult some may appear, none of them is difficult to fix."

 

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"...If there was no South African support, Mr Mugabe would have disappeared long ago..."

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The European Union (EU) said on Thursday it is "deeply concerned" by the repression in Zimbabwe.

 

The criticism of Mugabe's government follows the continued harassment of the country's political opposition groups.

 

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Zinmbabwe's leading opposition party, was hospitalised two weeks ago after being beaten while in police custody.

 

Uncertainty

 

Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera's correspondent at the summit, said the SADC delegates were uncertain on how to best address the current issues in Zimbabwe.

 

"Fellow African leaders, publicly at least, still regard Mugabe as a revolutionary hero," she said.

 

"But there is unease here at the summit at what is happening in Zimbabwe.

 

"The brutality of a Zimbabwe government crackdown on an opposition prayer rally two weeks ago shocked some now attending the summit."

 

Zimbabwe is in a deep economic crisis, with an inflation rate of 1,730 per cent. Unemployment is running at 80 per cent of the working age population.

 

Human Rights Watch, a New York based human rights group, said: "The crisis is reaching a breaking point and it is likely to get a lot worse ... There is so much fear in Zimbabwe, security agents are everywhere."

 

Three SADC countries charged with dealing with Zimbabwe - Tanzania, Namibia and Angola - met behind closed doors late on Wednesday.

 

Tanzanian officials said SADC chiefs would try to convince Mugabe to meet the MDC leaders in an effort to dissolve the tensions that threaten Zimbabwe's stability.

 

Eye on Congo

 

The SADC summit agenda also includes recent developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

Clashes last week between the military and militia loyal to Jean Pierre Bemba, former vice-president and ex-rebel chief, claimed up to 500 lives, according to the German ambassador in Kinshasa.

 

Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s president, held talks with Joseph Kabila, his DR Congo counterpart, on Thursday before the main summit.

 

Bemba has taken refuge at the South African embassy in Kinshasa and has been accused of high treason by Kabila's government.