Zimbabwe talks : Zuma zooms in

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Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has forced millions of its citizens to flee the
country, with an estimated three million Zimbabweans in neighbouring South
Africa alone.

South African African National Congress leader, Jacob Zuma says Southern African leaders must force Zimbabwe’s sparring parties to break the deadlock over a power-sharing deal at a summit on Sunday.

Zuma is today quoted in the media saying “As far as I’m concerned SADC must make those Zimbabweans reach an agreement,”

On Sunday SADC leaders gather at the Sandton Convention Centre in South Africa for an extra-ordinary meeting on Zimbabwe hoping to bring finality to the inter-party talks that have been going on for the past 19 months.

Sadc leaders met in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 31 last year and mandated the then South African president Thabo Mbeki to mediate talks between Zimbabwe’s three main political parties.

Tremendous progress was made, culminating in the signing of a broad-based agreement on September 15 that paved way for the formation of the envisaged inclusive Government that has been long in coming. The talks have, however, been stalled by disagreements over the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Zuma’s comments are among a string of sharp call for SADC to take a tough decisive stand on Zimbabwe. South Africa’s government said on Thursday it would take a tough stand at the summit over Zimbabwe. This was a sharp change from the style of Mbeki, whose softly-softly approach as official southern African mediator has been criticised as ineffective.

Quiet Diplomacy

The deal is teetering on the verge of collapse over a protracted dispute
on which party will control the most powerful ministries, especially Home
Affairs which oversees the police.

SADC’s security arm has held two summits over the last three weeks in failed
bids to break the deadlock, pushing the region into a last-ditch effort to
save the deal on Sunday. “It is difficult to be optimistic about Sunday’s summit,” said University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masungure.

The so-called “quiet diplomacy” championed by Mbeki — which avoids public
criticism of Mugabe — has so far failed to produce a workable arrangement
between the ruling Zanu-PF and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said Masungure. “Sufficient pressure has to be put, particulary on Zanu-PF to concede the Home Affairs Ministry to MDC,” he said.

That pressure might come from civil society groups which has planned protests outside the convention centre.

Analysts predict the MDC will not make any concessions regarding control of
the Home Affairs Ministry and any progress would have to rely on Mugabe
being reasonable for once.

But unfortunately the ZANU PF leader appears more interested in holding onto power and in protecting the security chiefs who secured his violent re-election.

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