SA insists Mugabe sticks to election deal, no more "quiet diplomacy"

PRETORIA, South Africa – A tense and visibly irritated South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane took a stern line with Zimbabwe’s unity government yesterday.

"We will refuse the temptation to respond in anger because we have a responsibility to focus on the mandate given (to us) by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) as facilitators," she said at a briefing in Pretoria. She said SA remained resolute that it would enforce the conditions of the Global Political Agreement.

It was forged three years ago and culminated in the formation of a coalition government between Zimbabwe’s main political parties .

Zanu (PF) and the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed to draft a new constitution before elections were held. However, President Robert Mugabe vowed to hold elections this year and accused Sadc leaders of interfering in the affairs of his country.

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane said the inclusive government of Zimbabwe should finalise constitutional amendments and hold a referendum, which were "necessary steps for the holding of elections".

"Sadc remains the guarantor for the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement. So there’s no lowering of the guard by Sadc on playing that role," she said. "The status quo (the agreement) remains because that’s the mandate we got from the people of Zimbabwe."

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane distanced the Zuma administration from former president Thabo Mbeki ’s "quiet diplomacy", insisting President Jacob Zuma had a different approach .

Mr Zuma was heavily criticised in Zimbabwe’s state media last weekend. "Bemused people have often asked: how does the disaster- prone Zuma manage to run Africa’s biggest economy?" a Sunday Mail editorial asked. "The answer is really simple: he does not run anything, not even a tuck shop in Soweto.

Despite resistance from President Robert Mugabe, South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team jets into the country on Wednesday to start working on the election roadmap.

Lindiwe Zulu, Zuma’s international relations advisor, who is also part of the facilitation team, confirmed the team’s visit, while negotiators of the parties in the fragile Government of National Unity (GNU) said they would be meeting on Wednesdayy, to discuss the roadmap.

The facilitation team is expected to make a follow-up on recommendations made by Sadc’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security in Zambia on Thursday, which called for the speedy implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), stopping of violence and crafting of a roadmap to enable the holding of free and fair elections.

"We will be in Zimbabwe tomorrow (today) to continue our facilitation work," said Zulu.

"We will be meeting the negotiators and other stakeholders, depending on the issues which will arise. We are basically following up on the issues we have been working on, such as the implementation of the GPA and the election roadmap."

She declined to reveal the specific agenda, but sources said the team wanted all partners to respect and implement the GPA, as this would
create an environment conducive for an undisputable election.

The team is eager to have an election roadmap which will result in a clean divorce of the GNU partners without throwing the country into further turmoil.

MDC negotiator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and her MDC-T counterpart Tendai Biti said negotiators would start discussions on the roadmap today, having assessed the GPA at their meeting on Monday.

They spent most of yesterday in Cabinet.

"We reviewed the GPA yesterday (Monday) and tomorrow (Wednesday) we will be doing the roadmap," said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

Zanu PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said the negotiators would only meet the facilitation team after completing their deliberations.

"If we finish tomorrow (today), we may be able to meet the facilitation team on Thursday.

"We will meet them after we have completed our deliberations and (after having) briefed our principals. Basically, we are meeting over two things, to produce a report on the GPA and to work on the roadmap," he said.

"We have completed deliberations on the review and we are now going into the roadmap."

President Mugabe, who is pushing for elections this year, is against an election roadmap, arguing that the GPA is in itself an election roadmap.

The MDCs, however, want a roadmap with timelines and signposts, which will guarantee a level playing field and a conducive environment for elections.

The Sadc Troika appointed another team to assist the facilitation team to produce a roadmap for elections, but it could not be established on Tuesday if the team would accompany Zuma’s team on Wednesday.