South African President Jacob Zuma jetted into Harare on Thursday evening and was quickly whisked to a state banquet for talks with President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Zuma is guest of honour of the power-sharing government to open the annual Harare agricultural show on Friday, but observers say far more important are the series of meetings with the three principles of the government.
The government is under strain as Tsvangirai accuses the 85-year- old Mugabe of failing to honour obligations he signed up to in September last year in the agreement between the three leaders.
MDC officials say Mugabe appears to be intent on continuing to run the country as a repressive one-party state.
The critical talks will determine whether the coalition government is able to put the divisive issues crippling its operations behind it and focus on rebuilding the country. The alternative is an ugly battle ahead of the forthcoming Sadc summit in the DRC.
Battle lines were already drawn before Zuma arrived in Harare — his first visit to Zimbabwe since he was sworn-in in May — as officials traded tough remarks in a bid to do agenda-setting.
Hard-hitting statements came from key allies of Mugabe and Tsvangirai who appeared geared for a take-no-prisoners encounter, while ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has said South Africa will be more vocal in its attempt to curb what he called “deviant behaviour” in the Mugabe camp.
Earlier Thursday, Tsvangirai said they would meet with Zuma and see if some form of finality can be reached on the implementation of the agreement. He cited Mugabe’s violations of the agreement, that include the unilateral appointment of cronies as central bank chief and attorney general, the constant harassment of MDC legislators and resistance to democratic reforms.
“The meeting will take place as the South African government has indicated,” said Tsvangirai. “There is an opportunity for President Zuma to meet the principals of various political parties and try to evaluate the implementation of the GPA. Tomorrow we will meet (with him) as principals,” he said.
“President Zuma is not coming here as a prosecutor or a judge but as
chairman of Sadc and guarantor (of the GPA). All he wants to see is the agreement being implemented and on that score I am optimistic.”
However, indications were that the meetings would be heated as the
disputes have been steadily escalating.