SADC leaders want South African President Jacob Zuma to uphold one of their key resolutions on Zimbabwe by visiting the country to engage unity government principals and party political leaders before make-or-break elections later this year, diplomatic sources have said.
Report by Hazel Ndebele
Regional leaders want Zuma to visit Harare for talks with President Robert Mugabe (Zanu PF), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube (MDC).
Although Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara is still attending principals’ Monday meetings, Sadc leaders resolved in Maputo, Mozambique, last year Ncube should instead be involved.
“We have now reached critical stages on the Zimbabwean situation in terms of political and electoral processes. After four years of the coalition government, Zimbabwe is now approaching crucial general elections, so some Sadc leaders think Zuma should visit Harare to engage with the principals and political leaders to assess whether the country is now ready for free and fair elections,” a senior Sadc diplomat told the Zimbabwe Independent this week.
“Sadc has passed resolutions at several summits imploring Zuma to visit Harare, especially before important meetings or events to assess the situation directly.”
Since Zimbabwe has reached critical stages in the life of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which led to the wobbly inclusive government, Sadc leaders believe Zuma should now have a more hands-on approach on the situation than before.
At the June 2011 summit held in Sandton, Johannesburg, Sadc leaders agreed Zuma should visit Zimbabwe ahead of the regional bloc’s key meetings to enable him to get first-hand briefings on the country’s political environment and preparations for polls.
Zuma last visited Zimbabwe before the Sadc summit of August 2012 held in Maputo. During that visit the process to exclude Mutambara and include Ncube from principals’ meetings was initiated.
Sadc diplomats said it was critical for Zuma to visit Harare to personally engage the principals and assess how far they have gone with implementation of the GPA, including the elections roadmap, and preparations for the polls.
Zuma’s facilitation team has been frequently visiting Zimbabwe to check progress on reforms and preparations for elections. The team was in Harare last week to try and resolve a stand-off between Zanu PF, MDC parties and itself on whether it should attend full Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) meetings. Zanu PF Jomic members last month refused to allow Zuma’s team to attend full Jomic meetings, contrary to MDC parties’ position.
Zuma’s envoys last week met Jomic co-chairs Elton Mangoma (MDC-T), Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC) and Nicholas Goche (Zanu PF).
It also met Ncube after he wrote to Zuma and Sadc Troika chair, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete complaining Mugabe and Tsvangirai were still sidelining him in violation of Sadc resolutions.
Efforts by Zuma’s team to meet President Mugabe and Tsvangirai were unsuccessful.
Zuma’s international relations adviser Lindiwe Zulu said this week the facilitation team would return to Harare on April 30 in a bid to meet all the principals.
“Zuma will definitely come to Zimbabwe because that is part of his responsibility, but as of when, we are not yet sure,” said Zulu. “We will be coming back to Harare on April 30.”
Following the recent crackdown on civil society organisations and a resurgence of political violence, Tsvangirai dispatched Minister of State in his office, Jameson Timba, to update regional leaders on the Zimbabwe situation. The MDC-T wants an extraordinary Sadc meeting on Zimbabwe before the elections, but Zanu PF is resisting the move.