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South African President Encouraged After Zimbabwe Visit

  • Peta Thornycroft

South African President Jacob Zuma says he is encouraged by progress in Zimbabwe's shaky unity government. Mr. Zuma has been in Zimbabwe on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

South African President Jacob Zuma met with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and leaders of all three political parties that signed the political agreement 18 months ago to create the inclusive government.

Outside the formal talks he met Mugabe loyalists, Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana. Their appointments after the political agreement was signed are just two of complaints Mr. Tsvangirai put to the South African president.

Mr. Zuma also met with MDC treasurer Roy Bennett, who is deputy agriculture minister. Bennett is being tried in court by Tomana on treason charges.

Mr. Mugabe says he will not swear Bennett into his position until he is cleared of the treason charges. Bennett's legal team asked last week for all charges against Bennett to be dropped saying that the attorney-general had engaged in a malicious prosecution.

Speaking to South Africa's national broadcaster, Bennett said his meeting with Mr. Zuma was "very good."

"[The meeting was] very helpful, very supportive to the Zimbabwean process, to the Zimbabwean people," he said.

Appearing at a news briefing in Harare with Mr. Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Zuma said Zimbabwe's political leaders had agreed to a package of SADC measures set out in January.

The political agreement is so mired in delays, that dates for a new constitution and fresh elections are only possible in 2012 instead of next year. Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai told Mr. Zuma they want elections as soon as possible if the inclusive government does not make better progress.

The political deadlock has stalled political reforms and the West has held back significant aid to Zimbabwe, citing slow progress in fulfilling conditions in the political agreement.

While in London earlier this month, Mr. Zuma called for Britain to end financial and travel restrictions against Mr. Mugabe and about 200 of his ZANU-PF colleagues. Mr. Mugabe says the restrictions stand in the way of further political reform.