26 April 2013

Zimbabwe: Zuma Urged to Increase Visits As Zim Elections Draw Closer

Photo: Buanews
President Robert Mugabe welcomes President Jacob Zuma (file photo).

As Zimbabwe's negotiated political arrangement reaches its final stages, the regional body tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) has called on its chief facilitator to be more robust in his engagements with Zimbabwe.

Following major disagreements at a meeting held in Zambia in 2011, where SA President Jacob Zuma's facilitation team presented a scathing report on ZANU PF's unwillingness to respect the GPA, SADC resolved that Zuma should personally visit Zimbabwe, especially ahead of key political events.

At their latest February meeting held in Pretoria, the SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security appealed to Zuma to ensure that he engaged with all GPA stakeholders, as part of his facilitation role, diplomatic sources told the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.

The Troika consists of Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania and they want Zuma to personally assess progress, or lack of it, regarding the political and security situation in Zimbabwe.

Seasoned journalist and editor Dumisani Muleya told SW Radio Africa that SADC is particularly keen to avoid another disputed Zimbabwean election, hence the renewed pressure on Zuma to check on the implementation of the GPA.

"In the aftermath of the latest meeting in Pretoria, SADC wants Zuma to assess the situation himself, and also to hear from all the parties about the election road map and whether the country is indeed ready to hold elections."

Zuma's facilitation team was in the country last week, where they met members of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), and team spokesperson Lindiwe Zulu revealed that they will be returning on April 30th.

"Zuma will definitely come to Zimbabwe because that is part of his responsibility, but as of when, we are not yet sure," Zulu told the Independent.

Muleya said while Zuma's expected visits may not signify "real movement towards fully implementing the GPA", they however symbolise the ratcheting up of pressure on the political parties to commit to the agreement.

"There are electoral processes that are already under way, especially those that relate to the new constitution and amending the electoral laws and these are issues that Zimbabwe needs to make a swift move on.

"So part of Zuma's task will be hold discussions with all the political leaders to evaluate progress, and also get a commitment from all concerned that if free and fair elections are held, the results will not be disputed.

"The country has spent more than a decade on disputed election results and SADC is anxious to avoid another disputed poll, Muleya told us.

Outstanding issues in the GPA include security sector reforms, but analysts say it is unlikely that Mugabe will agree to these, regardless of when elections are held.

"He may agree to media reforms etc, but as ZANU PF ministers have been indicating of late, no amount of pressure from SADC will make them yield to security reforms. That is where their strength lies and they will not allow it," said Muleya.

The latest visit by Zuma's facilitation team was to try and resolve a stand-off between ZANU PF, the MDC parties and itself on whether the team should attend full JOMIC meetings.

ZANU PF last month blocked Zuma's team from attending full JOMIC meetings.

It is understood that the team also met MDC leader Welshman Ncube, after he raised concerns to Zuma and Troika chair, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, about being sidelined by Mugabe and Tsvangirai in favour of Mutambara, in violation of SADC resolutions.

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