ZANU PF is reportedly blocking efforts by the South African facilitation team from making any meaningful progress in its mediation efforts, calling their presence 'unnecessary'.
According to a report by South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper, Robert Mugabe and his party do not want Jacob Zuma's facilitation team playing a central role in Zimbabwe's election plans. As a result, the party has actively been snubbing the SADC appointed team.
The newspaper quoted senior party negotiators representing both the MDC-T and ZANU PF, a SADC representative and a government minister and a ZANU PF politburo member. The SADC representative, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the SADC team had been in and out of Zimbabwe attempting to secure access to joint ZANU PF and MDC meetings, without success.
"He said they had been told off the record that their presence was unnecessary and tantamount to interference in the running of government," the newspaper reported.
The report goes on to state that repeated attempts to secure a meeting with Mugabe have been in vain. Last week, Zuma's team was in Harare to meet government principals and party political leaders but only managed to see MDC-N leader Welshman Ncube. According to the Mail & Guardian, Ncube said the facilitation team had not been able to meet Mugabe because his office had indicated he would be unavailable "indefinitely".
Another government official confirmed that Zuma's team had been snubbed, and said there is "growing hostility and tension between Mugabe and Zuma."
South Africa's mediation efforts have hit numerous stumbling blocks over the past four years, mainly due to opposition by ZANU PF. Most recently the party blocked the South African team from attending JOMIC meetings, saying there was no place for them there.
SW Radio Africa last year spoke to South African diplomats who accused ZANU PF of deliberately frustrating Zuma's facilitation efforts. The diplomats said that ZANU PF 'obstruction' was becoming an endemic problem.
The mediation team are not the only group being brushed off by Mugabe's party. Earlier this month, a United Nations (UN) delegation ended up stranded in South Africa after ZANU PF refused to allow them to visit the country on a fact-finding mission. The party refused to bend to UN stipulations that they meet with civil society groups.
McDonald Lewanika, the Director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said this kind of bevahiour from ZANU PF is expected this close to elections.
"As we move closer to elections we are going to see increased resistance to reforms and increased resistance to any group demanding the reforms. These actions are mean to stonewall attempts at the reforms stipulated in the GPA," Lewanika told SW Radio Africa.
Commenting on why SADC never speaks out against these stonewalling efforts by ZANU PF, Lewanika said this was because of the 'embarrassment' that would be caused. He said Zuma in particular would want to 'save face', by exercising a non confrontational approach.
"It is the biggest challenge in this situation. But this is the way diplomacy is," Lewanika said.
Meanwhile the South Africa facilitation team has said it will tackle the exclusion of MDC-N leader Ncube, saying this was a violation of a regional resolution.
Chief facilitator Lindiwe Zulu said the facilitation team was not happy with Ncube's continued exclusion and wanted to bring an end to this.
Ncube recently wrote to the SADC chairman, Jakaya Kikwete, accusing Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of making key governance decisions without consulting him.
But Zulu said this should come to an end, as all the parties that signed the GPA must be included in negotiations.
"The GPA was signed by three political parties and we think they should all be represented, SADC has taken a decision to that effect," she said. "None of those parties must be marginalised."