Zuma claims another hollow break through

HARARE – South African President Jacob Zuma Friday said he had persuaded Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to start talking again to address the rifts in their power-sharing government.

But he gave no details, and it was unclear whether progress had been made on the substance of their disagreements, many of them concerning Mugabe’s refusal to consult with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on key appointments.

Mugabe has already said there is no need to extend the life of the coalition, which is up for review in February, and looks likely to call elections in mid-2011 without the new constitution that Zimbabwe’s Western donors are asking for.

Zuma has been trying to heal the rift between Mugabe and Tsvangirai with little success since coming to office last year.

Emerging after meeting both leaders for over five hours at a Harare hotel, Zuma said Mugabe and Tsvangirai had agreed to resume their weekly meetings, which stopped in October because of a row over appointments.

"We’ve met and we’ve had very good and very successful consultations," Zuma said, flanked by Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

"There had been a breakdown in communication within the leadership of the government here, which we discussed and resolved. Meetings are going to resume. All the issues that need to be discussed and resolved will certainly find a platform."

REPORT TO SADC

Zuma declined to give details, saying he had to report first to the three-member "troika" representing the Southern African Development Community.

"There’s this general understanding that we move forward … and implement our own decisions as well as resolutions of SADC," he said.

Ahead of his visit, analysts had said Zuma’s visit was unlikely to produce a breakthrough.

"Zuma may, just as in the past, go back with half-baked promises from Mugabe," said John Makumbe, senior politics lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

"He cannot force a solution on these leaders, so it will be another wild goose chase."

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

Mugabe and Tsvangirai, bitter rivals for the past decade, agreed to share power after disputed elections in 2008.

Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of breaching their agreement by refusing to swear in his ally Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture minister, and several MDC officials to key government posts. The MDC has objected without success to the appointments of Mugabe allies as central bank governor and attorney general.

This week the MDC took went to the High Court to challenge the appointment of 10 Mugabe allies to influential provincial governorships.

Mugabe says the MDC must persuade its allies in the West to lift sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his inner circle.