Mediators: concern over Zimbabwe leader's health

HARARE – Negotiators from Zimbabwe’s three governing parties including President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF have expressed fear that the unresolved question of the veteran leader’s succession could endanger efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis, according to South Africa’s ruling ANC party.

In its official ANC Today newsletter, the party, whose leader and also South African President Jacob Zuma is the regional SADC group’s mediator in the Zimbabwe inter-party negotiations, said the ongoing talks have made serious progress.

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But the negotiators were concerned that should Mugabe, who is 87, retire or die in office this could jeorpadise the adoption of a new and democratic constitution that is still being drafted and is seen as prerequisite to ensuring the next vote is free and fair.

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“Negotiators are also concerned about the succession should Mugabe die or retire before the adoption of a new constitution, which is still being negotiated,” the party said.

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The South African party said ZANU PF and the two MDC parties led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube had agreed in principle that Western sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle should be lifted.

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The United States, European Union and other Western nations imposed sanctions against Mugabe and his top lieutenants in 2002 as punishment for failure to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

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Mugabe — who says sanctions by the EU and its western allies were meant to weaken him and eventually cause his ouster as punishment for seizing land from white farmers — has blocked reforms in the security sector saying these and other key reforms could only take place after sanctions have been first removed.

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But the ANC conceded that with Zimbabwe’s political reforms dragging on at a snail’s pace it would be difficult to convince the West to lift the visa and financial bans on Mugabe and his allies.

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It said: “As a matter of principle, the three parties have agreed sanctions must go, SADC has agreed the sanctions must go. But also… there must be understanding that the slower the pace (of implementing the GPA) the more it becomes difficult to sell this idea.”

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Under the GPA or global political agreement that gave birth to Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government, the Harare coalition must write a new constitution and draft an elections roadmap before calling a new vote.

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A multiparty parliamentary committee leading the writing of the new constitution has said it expects to have a draft charter ready to be taken to Zimbabweans in referendum by September while the three parties have agreed an elections charter in principle. 

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But the parties remain deadlocked on issue of security reforms and on the question of when exactly should new elections take place. — ZimOnline