Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Zuma set for showdown talks with Mugabe

By Gift Phiri

HARARE – South African President Jacob Zuma is due in Zimbabwe next week for showdown talks to try and ease escalating tensions over slow-paced reforms. The African National Congress (ANC) is also expected to touch on the military’s interference in politics.

Time running out for Mugabe: The Zanu PF dictator seen here with South African President Jacob Zuma
Time running out for Mugabe: The Zanu PF dictator seen here with South African President Jacob Zuma

Zuma will assess key contentious areas in the election roadmap that is expected to pave way for polls now scheduled for next year. President Robert Mugabe, his old rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai remain at odds over key issues in the Sadc-endorsed election roadmap, mainly security sector reforms.

Zuma heads to Harare amid escalating threats by Zimbabwe’s security chiefs that they would refuse to recognise a victory by anyone other than Mugabe or a Zanu PF liberation war cadre in the forthcoming elections. Appalled MDC leaders have described the statements as a “pre-emptive military coup”.

Zuma’s facilitation team spokesperson Lindiwe Zulu has already fired warning shots by insisting that there will be no elections in Zimbabwe before security sector reforms, among others. Her boss is set to reinforce this view during his visit to Zimbabwe.

Andy Makwabe, a South African embassy political section official, said Zuma was supposed to be in Harare last week but pushed the visit further because Zimbabwean parties had not finalised an actual date for the visit. The parties are meeting on Monday for final preparations ahead of Zuma’s visit.

Zuma’s impending visit follows a recommendation of a Sadc summit of heads of State and government meeting in Luanda earlier this month. The summit urged “parties to the GPA, assisted by Zuma, to develop an implementation mechanism and to set out time frames for the full implementation of the roadmap to elections.”

The full election roadmap was finalised on April 22, 2011, when the three parties in the coalition government “agreed to disagree” on six contentious items. But the agreed issues remain unimplemented more than one year on.

The Daily News understands that parties have agreed to conduct media reforms and direct the state media to support agreed government programmes and stop attacks on ministers implementing such programmes.

The major disagreements in the roadmap are on security sector reform and staffing of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), installed in March 2010 to run the country’s polls.

MDC formations want Zec to recruit new members of the secretariat arguing that the current technical team is a “rat hole for CIO officers”. Mugabe’s Zanu PF says there is nothing wrong with the current secretariat, which ran the last disputed election. But the biggest disagreement is on item E (2) (a) that deals with security sector reforms.

Both MDC factions agree that security forces must issue a public statement indicating they will “unequivocally uphold the Constitution and respect the rule of law in the lead-up to and following any election or referendum.” Zanu PF sharply differs with this position and says it is not an election matter.

“Political parties have no right to direct uniformed forces to issue political statements,” says Zanu PF in its position paper on the issue. This poses a challenge for Zuma, Sadc and the African Union, who have vowed to quarantine any regime born out of a military coup.

On Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Parliament was still debating “subversive” statements by some military commanders, with Tsvangirai saying security sector reforms are a must to ensure “we respect the vote, the will and mandate of the people”.

Tsvangirai told MPs that he will not be herded into an election when army generals are threatening to seize power. Daily News