Tags: Zuma | talks | Zimbabwe

Zuma in Talks With Zimbabwe Leaders

Wednesday, 17 Mar 2010 09:23 AM

HARARE – South African President Jacob Zuma met with Zimbabwe's feuding leaders Wednesday amid growing pressure for the fragile unity government to move toward fresh elections.

Zimbabwe's veteran President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed a unity government one year ago, but remain divided over a slate of issues, which has stymied progress toward the new polls envisioned in their power-sharing pact.

Zuma held one-on-one talks with Mugabe and then with Tsvangirai, before breaking for lunch with the two leaders.

Mugabe said as he left the talks only that the meeting went "very well, as usual".

Tendai Biti, secretary general of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said: "It is too early to say anything. The process that is taking place... must be given a chance to resolve all the outstanding issues."

The unity government has halted Zimbabwe's spectacular economic collapse, erasing hyperinflation and posting the first growth seen in more than a decade.

Tsvangirai, however, complains that Mugabe made a series of top-level appointments unilaterally and that MDC supporters remain the target of official persecution.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has bitterly insisted that western nations lift a travel ban and asset freeze imposed on his inner circle before making more concessions.

The United States and the European Union this year both extended most of the sanctions for another 12 months, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said during Zuma's visit to London earlier this month that progress toward elections must be made before the sanctions can be lifted.

A Zimbabwe official told AFP that Mugabe "wants to hear first-hand information on the discussions between President Zuma and Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the issue of sanctions."

"This is quite a real issue for him and he needs answers on the issue of sanctions," the official added.

Pressure is growing for the parties to shelve their differences and focus on drafting a new constitution, which is meant to pave the way toward fresh elections.

Under the power-sharing deal, Zimbabwe was meant to draft a new charter and put it to a referendum by November 2010, paving the way for new elections by February 2011.

Public consultations on the constitution were meant to start nine months ago, but are now only expected to begin in April.

Tsvangirai last week insisted that the unity government should stick to the original timetable, and called for African peacekeepers to supervise the polls to prevent a return of the bloodshed that marred the 2008 presidential race.

"We don?t want elections that are full of violence. We want free and fair elections," he told his supporters at a rally outside Harare.

The unity deal gave Tsvangirai control over most of the levers of the economy, but left Mugabe with a firm grip over security forces.

Mugabe, 86, has already said that he is prepared to contest the next election. His party has no clear candidate in the wings to eventually succeed him.

Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe, said that the parties appeared to be moving farther apart.

"In the last couple of months, there has been less and less power-sharing and more and more exclusivity and power divisions," he told AFP.

"I think Zuma's task is to rebuild bridges that are in the process of being broken down. The question is whether he has the energy and skills to do that."

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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HARARE – South African President Jacob Zuma met with Zimbabwe's feuding leaders Wednesday amid growing pressure for the fragile unity government to move toward fresh elections.
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2010-23-17
Wednesday, 17 Mar 2010 09:23 AM
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