Business Day (Johannesburg)

17 August 2010

Zimbabwe: Zuma Claims Progress in Easing Logjam

Photo: Buanews
The SADC summit of heads of state and government took place in Windhoek, Namibia.

Johannesburg — PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma was yesterday said to be close to resolving the political impasse in the government of national unity in Zimbabwe.

SA was appointed the lead mediator in 2007 by regional leaders to settle the tension between Zimbabwe's main political parties, Zanu (PF) and the Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr Zuma, in his report to regional leaders, said "progress has been made on 24 of the 27 issues" by the political establishment in Zimbabwe, his spokesman, Zizi Kodwa, said yesterday.

Mr Kodwa refused to divulge details about what the three outstanding issues were or those where progress had been made.

Mr Zuma was presenting his report at a two-day summit of regional leaders of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in Namibia.

Zimbabwe has been embroiled in political upheaval and economic strife for more than a decade with disastrous consequences for the region.

This situation has prompted the US and major countries in Europe to impose sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's regime.

Last week, US President Barack Obama maintained that sanctions would not be lifted until Mr Mugabe's party, which leads the government of national unity, addressed concerns on human rights violations and the persecution of opposition leaders.

"There have been discussions when I've travelled with leaders in the southern African region about whether or not sanctions against Zimbabwe are counterproductive," Mr Obama said.

"I would like nothing more than to open up diplomatic relationships and economic and commercial relationships with Zimbabwe," he said.

The Sadc has consistently argued that sanctions against Zimbabwe are counterproductive to efforts to settle the impasse between Mr Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Last year, Mr Tsvangirai's party entered into a coalition pact with Mr Mugabe's party as one of the first steps towards resolving the parties' disputes. This coalition government formed part of the "global political agreement" negotiated by SA.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Saul Molobi said Zimbabwe was showing improvement in certain areas.

"Economically, progress has already been noted in Zimbabwe with the positive development trends arising from the economic rehabilitation programmes."

SA, through the African Renaissance Fund, last year contributed R300m to revive the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. These funds were also used to buy food for the poor, as Zimbabwe faces serious food security problems because of its disastrous land redistribution programme.

SA - as the biggest economy in the region - has been disproportionately bearing the brunt of Zimbabwe's economic collapse .

Analysts believe that millions of Zimbabweans have streamed into SA for economic opportunities and to escape poverty at home.

Some migrants have sought refuge at the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg.

The church's Bishop Paul Verryn has gained national prominence for his role in crusading for the plight of Zimbabwean refugees.

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