Zuma jets in for another damp squib

HARARE (Reuters) – South African President Jacob Zuma aims to settle power-sharing disputes between the coalition partners in Zimbabwe on Friday, but the prospect of elections next year is likely to hamper his mission to Harare.\r\n

Zuma has already tried to heal the rift between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai with little success since coming to office last year. An increasingly confident Mugabe now has his sights set on elections he plans to call in the middle of next year.

"Zuma may, just as in the past, go back with half-baked promises from Mugabe. He cannot force a solution on these leaders, so it will be another wild goose chase," said John Makumbe, a senior political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe government officials said Zuma, who was met at Harare airport by Mugabe, was due to meet the feuding coalition partners later on Friday before returning home.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai, bitter rivals for the past decade, agreed to share power after disputed elections in 2008 but their unity government is beset by rows over posts and privileges.

Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of breaching the 2008 political pact by refusing to swear in his ally Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture minister and several officials to key government posts. Mugabe has also refused to reverse the appointments of his allies as central bank governor and attorney general.

Mugabe says Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party must persuade its allies in the West to lift sanctions imposed on the veteran leader and his inner circle.

DEEPENING DIVISIONS

Political analysts say Tsvangirai’s decision this week to take Mugabe to the High Court over what he calls illegal appointments of his allies to 10 influential provincial governorships may also deepen tensions.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai have not held their weekly Monday meetings since Mugabe made the appointments in October and senior government officials say relations between the two have worsened since then.

Mugabe has said there is no need to lengthen the life of the coalition, which is up for review in February, and looks likely to call elections in the middle of next year.

Analysts say a rushed election without political reforms, including a new constitution guaranteeing basic rights, would favour Mugabe and his ZANU-PF, who have held power since independence from Britain in 1980.