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Zuma to Mediate Zimbabwe Political Stand-Off

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (File)

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (File)

South African President Jacob Zuma is reportedly to visit Zimbabwe later this week to try to resolve disputes within Zimbabwe's power-sharing government. The president said during a trip to Botswana that Zimbabwe's leaders must implement all the measures in their power-sharing accord before elections can take place.

Senior officials of the Southern Africa Development Community told reporters in Gabarone that President Jacob Zuma would travel to Harare to hold talks with the three parties in Zimbabwe's unity government.

After these consultations, they said, the South African president would likely recommend a date for another SADC summit on Zimbabwe.

The SADC committee on Politics, Defense and Security, known as the Troika, was due to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis Saturday, but failed to do so when two members of the panel, the presidents of Zambia and Mozambique, canceled their visits citing business at home.

Under an agreement brokered by SADC mediators, two factions of the formerly opposition Movement for Democratic Change joined the government of President Robert Mugabe.

But the head of the larger MDC faction, Prime Minister Morgan Tsangirai, has accused Mr. Mugabe of failing to fully implement the political agreement and of violating the accord by appointing ambassadors and provincial governors without consulting him.

The prime minister said on South Africa's national television that he was frustrated by the lack of progress on the impasse.

"There is no implementation of agreed positions. So, if there is no implementation, what is the way forward? And that's what SADC has to tackle," said Tsvangerai. "You can't be a guarantor, unless you are able to intervene in order to unlock those obstacles that you face."

Mr. Mugabe has said the unity government will come to an end on its second anniversary in February and has told his supporters to prepare for elections next year.

Mr. Zuma said on national television that SADC must help the Zimbabwean leaders because they have shown that, without regional pressure, they are not able to resolve their differences.

And he reiterated SADC's position that the political agreement, which includes a referendum on a new constitution, must be fully implemented before any new election can be held.

"Part of the reason we have to come back to the Troika as well as SADC is in fact to say what is it that we need to do to guarantee and ensure that by the time we get to [the] election there is less tension, there is more atmosphere that will lead to free and fair elections," said Zuma.

Popular consultations on a new constitution ended recently and legal experts are beginning the process of drafting the document.

But civic groups say an atmosphere of fear and intimidation prevails in the country, especially in rural areas, and fair elections cannot be held under these circumstances.