30 March 2011

Southern Africa: President in Zambia for SADC Troika

PRESIDENT Mugabe arrived in Livingstone, Zambia, yesterday evening for today's summit of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

The routine summit is expected receive an update on the political situation in Zimbabwe from the facilitator in the country's inter-party talks, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

Also on the agenda is Madagascar, whose report will be tabled by its facilitator, former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano.

However, it is understood that Madagascar will not be represented and Zambia's President Rupiah Banda - who chairs the Troika - will present the organ's report.

President Mugabe was accompanied by Ministers Simbarashe Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs), Emmerson Mnangagwa (Defence); Patrick Chinamasa (Justice and Legal Affairs) and Nicholas Goche (Transport, Communication and Infrastructure Development), and Tendai Biti (Finance), among other senior Government officials.

He was met at Livingstone Airport by Zambia's Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande, his Agriculture counterpart Eustarckio Kazonga, Foreign Affairs Secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha and Harare's chief diplomat in Lusaka Ambassador Lovemore Mazemo.

Diplomatic sources said they had it on good authority that MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai - who is Prime Minister in the inclusive Government - would try and convince regional leaders to postpone general elections expected later this year, citing alleged political violence.

Mr Tsvangirai has been to several Sadc countries in rece-nt days to try and drum up support in his bid to postpone elections, likely to be held around September, to around May next year.

A senior Zimbabwe Government official yesterday also revealed that MDC-T ministers had tried, and failed, to substantiate the claims of violence at Cabinet meetings this month in anticipation of today's summit.

The first attempt was in the March 1 Cabinet meeting.

"There was a plea by MDC-T that we hold a special Cabinet meeting to deal with their concerns.

"The President agreed and that is how the special Cabinet of March 24 was scheduled. It was during that session that PM Tsvangirai tabled a document raising several issues," the source said.

MDC-T also made complaints about the constitution-ma-king process, the rule of law and the Attorney-General's Office, which are the same issues Mr Tsvangirai has raised in his regional offensive.

Public Service Minister and Gutu South House of Asse-mbly representative Eliphas Mukonoweshuro claimed in that Cabinet meeting that war veterans leader Cde Jabulani Sibanda was causing havoc in his constituency.

"It, however, emerged that Cde Sibanda was not in Gutu and it was a misrepresentation of facts."

The source said the indication was that MDC-T was complaining about threats rather than actual instances of violence and that "these threats are largely imagi- ned".

"The matter was closed without any specific examples coming from MDC-T."

Diplomatic sources said they were aware that Mr Tsvangirai would try and bring these same issues to the Sadc Troika.

They said it was "unlikely" the summit would pander to MDC-T's whims as this was a "routine meeting" and would not overly concern itself with Zimbabwe's electoral time-table as that was an internal issue covered by the Global Political Agreement.

"The major concern we have reported has come from Zanu-PF which feels the South African facilitation team erred in asking MDC-T to submit a report on its claims of political violence when no such invitation was extended to the other two parties in the coalition.

"This will probably make it difficult for the concerns that MDC-T raises to be treated formally," he said.

Today's summit was preceded by a ministerial committee of the Organ, which considered the status of ratification of several protocols.

The Troika comprises Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique.

Sadc established the organ in 1996 as a vehicle for discussion and resolution of political issues in the region.

It subsequently adopted a draft protocol to help achieve solidarity, peace and security.

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