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South African President to Make First State Visit to Zimbabwe

Many Zimbabweans are looking with anticipation toward South African President Jacob Zuma's planned visit to Harare Thursday. Many are hoping that President Zuma, as outgoing chairman of SADC, will help unblock many outstanding issues in the political agreement which brought the inclusive government to power.

Mr. Zuma's visit comes at a crucial time for the inclusive government with many Movement for Democratic Change leaders saying President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF ministers and senior civil servants are blocking political reforms that stand in the way of international aid and investment.

In turn, ZANU-PF leaders say E.U. and U.S. sanctions, mainly travel restrictions against Mr. Mugabe and his colleagues, are responsible for Zimbabwe's dire economic situation.

But many in the MDC are concerned about Mr. Zuma's chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community, or SADC, coming to an end next month when he hands the position over to Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, seen by many Zimbabweans as an ally of President Robert Mugabe.

Austine Moyo, MDC chairman in South Africa, expressed fears about President Zuma's chairmanship coming to an end.

"And now with Zuma coming in, getting the baton stick towards the end of the race, where he is actually to hand it over to Kabila, it is worrying, because we have a lot of confidence in the presence of South Africa currently, to be able to move things in Zimbabwe. But his time is not enough," said Moyo.

Many in the MDC say there is no progress in writing a new constitution, or establishing an independent electoral authority or several other governance issues. MDC legislators are regularly arrested and more than a dozen human rights activists are awaiting trial on terrorism charges. Their lawyers say police have no evidence against them.

In a statement, President Zuma's office said he will, in his capacity as SADC chairman, hold talks with Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Tsvangirai and deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara on implementation of the agreement. SADC and the African Union guaranteed the so-called global political agreement, and Mr. Zuma's visit comes just three weeks after Mr. Tsvangirai visited him in South Africa.

Mr. Zuma will also officially open the Harare Agricultural Show on Friday. The show was once the showcase of a vibrant commercial farming sector which produced 40 percent of Zimbabwe's exports.

The sector collapsed with seizure of thousands of white owned farms from 2000 and now many people say the show has become little more than a flea market. Many factories have closed down during the economic crisis of the last ten years and there are few agricultural exhibits.

A manufacturer told VOA the show which opened to the public Monday is disappointing.

"So far business is slow, getting a few inquiries and hoping business will pick up tomorrow," he said. "Most people are coming to inquire about protective clothing but basically the numbers of people coming in are not what we expected or experienced in past years."

A visitor to the show said few people these days have enough money to visit to the show.

"People don't have enough money there's a low turn out, there is nothing here, its boring, everything is very low," he said.

The show runs until Saturday.