Zuma to intervene as Zimbabwe leaders fail to meet

Regional leaders at summit in Maputo on November 5 gave the Zimbabweans 15 to 30 days to sort out their differences.

But 17 days later, the Zimbabwean leaders have not yet met.

Zuma’s international relations adviser, Lindiwe Zulu, said yesterday the delay was worrying and this had forced the Presidency to speed up its facilitation role.

"We have been engaging with the people of Zimbabwe since the Maputo summit and we cannot afford to miss the deadline set by SADC," she said.

"The negotiators have to be serious with the deadline they were given and we hope to push them to meet.

"The facilitator (Zuma) wants the process speeded up because this issue has been dragging on for a long time.

"People from this side have been travelling to Zimbabwe to meet the political leaders and we have no option except to push for an agreement."

Zuma was expected to travel to Harare on December 6 to assess the negotiations.

But reports from Pretoria suggest that he might go earlier if the political leaders in Zimbabwe continue to drag their feet on negotiations. Regional leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held a summit in Maputo on November 5 to discuss the continuing failure of the Zimbabwean leaders to resolve their differences.

This was after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), partially pulled out of the unity government to protest against President Robert Mugabe’s failure to implement agreements.

These included his refusal to appoint MDC officials to senior government posts and Mugabe’s demand that the MDC do more to persuade Western countries to lift sanctions against senior Zanu-PF figures.

The leaders, including Zuma, gave the Zimbabweans 15 days to resolve their differences with a further 15 days’ grace before SADC intervened.

But the Zimbabwean parties have not met because the negotiators of the smaller MDC faction led by deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara have been overseas for the past two weeks.

MDC-Mutambara negotiators Professor Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga were also said to be out of the country.

MDC-Tsvangirai negotiator and finance minister Tendai Biti said in Harare yesterday that they were still waiting to hear from Ncube and Misihairabwi-Mushonga before they could resume negotiations.

"I am not sure when the negotiators who are said to be out of the country will avail themselves for the negotiations.

"We have not heard from them but I am confident the meeting will be held and we will be able to meet the deadline.

"Even if it means we have to work through the night when they avail themselves, then we have to do it. There is no going back on the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA)," said Biti, referring to the agreement which created the unity government.

However Misihairabwi-Mushonga said they were back in Zimbabwe, although she refused to comment further.

"You can only speak to Professor Ncube, but we are back in the country," she said yesterday.

Ncube could not be reached for comment. Tsvangirai’s MDC was bitter about what it described as a deliberate ploy to delay the implementation process.

It suspects that there is some connivance between the Mutambara faction and Zanu-PF to delay the implementation process.

"The deadline set by the SADC troika for the resolution of outstanding issues has once again been missed because of the intransigence, mischief and insincerity exhibited by the political players who are not taking the plight of the people of Zimbabwe seriously," said Tsvangirai’s MDC in a statement.

"For two weeks, Zimbabweans have waited in vain for the political gridlock to be unlocked.

"We note with concern that the body language from both Zanu-PF and the Mutambara-led political outfit does not show sincerity and faithfulness to resolving the outstanding issues.

"The MDC expects urgent resolution of issues that have stalled the work of the inclusive government.

"We expect that all parties, especially those that have chosen to ignore the important time-frames, targets and deadlines set by SADC, should urgently meet and clear the deck of the outstanding issues that have poisoned the people’s collective journey of hope spawned by the formation of the inclusive government in February 2009."

Nine months into the inclusive government, the MDC is complaining that Mugabe has still not appointed party members as provincial governors or to one of the key positions of attorney-general or Reserve Bank governor.

The MDC also complains about Mugabe’s refusal to appoint MDC deputy minister of agriculture-designate Roy Bennett, the slow progress in the constitution-making process and the continued harassment of MDC supporters and officials.

Apart from sanctions, Mugabe wants the MDC to stop foreign radio stations like the Voice of America broadcasting in Zimbabwe. – Independent Foreign Service