Zimbabwe: Zuma to avoid sensitive questions during visit…

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South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma’s makes his first official visit to Zimbabwe Thursday to open the Harare Agricultural Show. However, the visit has already overshadowed the annual agricultural show as Zuma is expected to tackle the political stalemate threatening the stability of the inclusive government.

Zuma is set to meet the principals of the power share arrangement, and it is hoped he will use the time to meet with Robert Mugabe to challenge him on ‘weighty’ issues threatening the already fragile unity accord.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, James Maridadi, said he could not confirm exactly what Zuma’s itinerary will be, but said the outstanding issues of the Global Political Agreement will feature in talks between the leaders.

President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba confirmed Zuma’s visit but sought to downplay his mission. He claimed the visit had nothing to do with resolving “outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement as speculated by foreign media houses who continuously report that the South African leader was going to get tough with Zanu PF.”

Zuma’s trip comes less than three weeks after he met with the country’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in Johannesburg. After that meeting, Zuma said he would discuss “very weighty issues” about the power-sharing deal with Zimbabwe. But political analyst Professor John Makumbe says it is unlikely that Zuma will do anything more than listen to the political leaders grievances when he is in the country this week.

Zuma has a small window of opportunity to tackle the unity government’s problems, as he hands over his current seat as the chair of SADC in September. As SADC chair and South African President, Zuma should carry enormous influential weight to set the unity government on the right path. His trip to Zimbabwe therefore provides him with an ideal opportunity to tackle the political crisis.

But Makumbe explained Zuma will be more willing to tackle the Zimbabwe crisis when he is no longer the SADC chair, saying “SADC is difficult because of its allegiance to Mugabe (…) Zuma will likely prefer to tackle Mugabe when he is only South African President,” Makumbe said. “Taking a hard line with Mugabe as SADC chair could jeapordise his future relationships with the SADC.”

The MDC has accused Mugabe and Zanu PF of flouting provisions of the political agreement. Zimbabwe’s long serving ruler is also blamed for delays in the implementation of key political reforms promised in the GPA.

However, last week Zanu PF accused MDC formations of failing to act on any of its commitments in the agreement that led to the formation of the inclusive government. The former sole ruling party says the MDC must call for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe and the closure of pirate radio stations.

Only two weeks ago, South African government made stunning revelations about the sale of rounds of ammunition to Zimbabwe. The claims, first made by made by Democratic Alliance members of parliament who were in Zimbabwe on a fact finding mission a week before the revelation, indicated that the South Africa’s National Arms Control Committee had approved a number of ’dodgy deals’ with Iran, Syria, North Korea, Libya, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The information was received with outrage.

It is unknown whether the issue will be addressed by Zuma during his visit to Zimbabwe.

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