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South Africa President Zuma Set to Meet Zimbabwe Leaders

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma attends the leaders meeting at the African Union (AU) in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, July 14, 2012.
South African President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to meet in Harare Wednesday with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

A scholar says he expects Zuma to encourage the Zimbabwe coalition government to fully embrace the ongoing draft constitution ahead of a possible election next year.

Professor Shadrack Gutto at the University of South Africa, a constitutional law expert, says Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and opponent Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) should bridge their differences over parts of the draft constitution.

“The main thing that really stands on the way of the progress forward is the constitution. [It] really needs to be embraced by all the parties. It has been embraced by the MDC and the various factions within it, but ZANU-PF has not embraced it because they said there are certain aspects, which they want changed,” said Gutto.

Rugare Gumbo, the spokesman for the ZANU-PF agreed there should be a compromise with the MDC and says the main obstacle seems to be reaching an agreement on the ongoing constitutional process.

“We are very clear that political parties in the country have to agree,” Gumbo said. “What we don’t accept is that the [MDC] pretends that the document which is [being] produced should be the final document.”

Gutto said the parties in the coalition government need to compromise on the draft constitution in the run up to a possible vote next year.

Analysts say the constitution forms part of the Global Political Agreement signed between all the parties to form a coalition government following the disputed 2008 presidential election. They say the agreement also calls for legislative reforms and a constitution to be in place before elections can be organized.

“I believe that [Zuma] will emphasize to them that they really need to take a leap forward. The constitution will never be perfect. No constitution in the world is perfect, but compromises are there and it is a step forward. I have looked at it and I think that it is better than the independence constitution, which Zimbabwe is using currently,” said Gutto.

For his part, Gumbo said he hopes that a draft constitution could be presented to the public by Thursday so that citizens could comment on it.

Some experts on the region in part blame Zimbabwe’s electoral commission for the disputed 2008 presidential election.

Gutto expressed hope that the political parties within the coalition government will make sure that an independent electoral commission is established to organize future elections that would meet international standards.

“One really hopes that they will have a credible and independent electoral commission because it was the electoral commission, which was a part of the problem in Zimbabwe when elections were held there in 2008,” said Gutto.
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