Robert Mugabe basking in glory after diplomatic triumph

The call by the Southern African Development Community comes amid deadlocked negotiations between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on key political appointments and ongoing concerns over human rights abuses.

"Obviously they are going to present it as a diplomatic triumph," said political analyst Takura Zhangazha, adding that Mugabe and his allies had been "desperate not to have Zimbabwe discussed on the agenda" at the two-day summit in Kinshasa which ended with the call on Tuesday.

Mugabe has blamed sanctions imposed by the European Union and other western countries for his country’s woes, using the issue to deflect attention from the slow pace of reform. The sanctions, targeting Mugabe and his inner circle, involve an extensive travel ban and a freeze on bank accounts.

Tough and difficult negotiations

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF joined a unity government in February with Movement for Democratic Change leader Tsvangirai, a long time political rival.

The parties remain deadlocked over the appointment of the Central Bank chief, blamed for presiding over the collapse of the local currency, and the attorney general who continues to prosecute MDC supporters despite guarantees of political freedoms in the unity accord.

"However, more worryingly the MDC and their allies are now going to be faced with tough and difficult negotiations ahead given that SADC has focused more on the issue of sanctions," said Zhangazha.

"Any future negotiations between Zanu-PF and the MDC will be difficult for the prime minister’s party and his men.

Sydney Masanvu, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, said he doubted whether the call would have an influence on Western countries.

Call to end sanctions

"Unless the voice is coming from within Zimbabwean political actors, the call to end sanctions is not going to be heard by Western countries.

"This means unless Morgan Tsvangarai himself is satisfied with the developments of the inclusive government he is not going to make that call," he said.

Mugabe’s biographer Heidi Holland agreed it was unlikely the international community would heed the call.

"It is a moral problem for the West as they don’t want to support a government led by Mugabe’s regime."

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Mugabe’s lead negotiator in the unity talks said his party had met its obligations under the unity accord and dismissed concerns raised by MDC.

Resolving the crisis

The 15-nation SADC summit was held in the Democratic Republic of Congo which took over the presidency from South Africa, whose former president Thabo Mbeki had mediated an end to a drawn-out political crisis after failed elections last year.

South African President Jacob Zuma on Monday told the summit that Zimbabwe has made significant progress towards resolving the crisis as its once feuding leaders learned to bury their differences.

He stressed the need to continue SADC’s support for the country’s economic reconstruction and also the lifting of sanctions.

"On Zimbabwe, summit noted the progress made in the implementation of the global political agreement and called on the international community to remove all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe," SADC said in its final communique on Tuesday.

Tsvangirai on Tuesday urged the southern Africa’s political bloc to monitor closely the progress of his power-sharing deal with Mugabe.

He told journalists he hoped all outstanding issues would be dealt with as a matter of urgency.