Zuma acts on Zim crisis

HARARE - South African leader Jacob Zuma is due in Harare after meeting Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday night, where the latter pushed for the convening of a mini-regional summit to speed up all outstanding reforms ahead of a crucial election.

Tsvangirai has embarked on a fresh diplomatic offensive in southern Africa to drum up support for his party’s position.

Sadc, the regional political and trading bloc, is the architect and guarantor of the power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA), which committed long-time rivals Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe to implement reforms ahead of a free poll and to equitably share power.

On Sunday evening, Tsvangirai met Zuma in Pretoria before proceeding to the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam to meet Sadc Troika chair, president Jakaya Kikwete last night.

The leaders of the Sadc Troika on politics, defence and security co-operation — Zuma, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, Armando Emilio Guebuza of Mozambique and Kikwete — have been leading efforts to nudge Zimbabwe’s leaders to try and iron out their differences.

“The PM is keen on convening a Troika summit and a full Sadc summit to discuss the conditions under which the next elections must be held,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said in a statement.

The statement said Sunday’s 40-minute meeting with Zuma deliberated on the environment in Zimbabwe ahead of the next election.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a unity government in 2009 to end a stalemate over disputed elections, which has managed to stabilise the economy after a decade of economic meltdown.

But constant bickering within the fragile alliance over policy and the slow pace of reforms have held back progress, and have also stood in the way of fresh elections.

Zuma, appointed to mediate in the crisis by regional grouping Sadc, met Tsvangirai, and was heading to Harare to hold a joint meeting later to discuss problems between the rival parties — Mugabe’s Zanu PF and Tsvangirai’s MDC ahead of the key polls.

“President Zuma is expected in the country soon to engage with the principals of the GPA,” Tamborinyoka said.

Lindiwe Zulu, Zuma’s international advisor, could not immediately confirm Zuma’s trip to Zimbabwe, saying she has not been briefed as she was not in Pretoria yesterday. But Tamborinyoka said Zuma urged all political leaders to stick to a power-sharing agreement meant to prepare for a fresh poll and haul the country back from the brink of collapse.

“President Zuma told Tsvangirai Sadc and the AU (African Union), as the guarantors of the GPA, will do everything in their power to ensure a free and fair poll in Zimbabwe,” Tamborinyoka said.

Tsvangirai’s MDC is demanding security and media reforms which have been stonewalled by Mugabe’s Zanu PF, escalating a dispute over the implementation of the deal.

“The meeting with President Zuma was the first during the premier’s regional tour, as well as other countries in Africa, to sensitise heads of State on developments in Zimbabwe where the guarantors, Sadc and the African Union, should ensure the environment is conducive to the holding of a free and fair election,” Tamborinyoka said.

“In particular the need to implement all outstanding reforms under the GPA, chief among which are public media reforms, security sector realignment, a clean and credible voters’ roll and the alignment of laws to the new constitution.”

The party is particularly unhappy about issues the principals had agreed on but which Zanu PF continues to refuse to implement, including the reform of ZBC and State-controlled newspapers.

The principals have agreed to allow entry of private broadcasters, restrain ZBC from churning out Zanu PF propaganda bordering on hate language, pointedly jingles, and blacking out of MDC activities.

George Charamba, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Media, Information and Publicity has told the Media, Information and Communication Technology parliamentary portfolio committee that government has no intention of issuing broadcasting licences to private players ahead of polls.

Article 19.1(e) of the GPA stipulates that the public and private media should refrain from using abusive language that may incite political intolerance or that unfairly undermines political parties and other organisations, and the GPA advocates that the public media should provide balanced and fair coverage to all political parties for their legitimate political activities.

Tsvangirai claims Zanu PF is trying to prop-up its declining grip through the airwaves ahead of elections.

Despite an agreement on security sector reforms, Tsvangirai fears Mugabe is banking on security commanders to fight the forthcoming elections and is demanding wide sweeping reforms.

The heads of the army and security forces, the vital cog in an elaborate strategy that has kept Mugabe, 89, in power after Tsvangirai, 60, handed the former guerrilla leader his biggest defeat five years ago, have been assured their services will not be terminated if Tsvangirai wins, and the change in the regime will only be in the State’s superstructure not the bureaucracy and the securocracy, according to the MDC.

Tsvangirai has reiterated that there was no reason for the security commanders to fear change in guard at Munhumutapa Building, the citadel of executive power in government.

Mugabe enjoys and commands enough respect and loyalty to be able to count on the security commanders, who have been staunchly resisting security sector reforms citing sovereignty arguments.

State Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa and Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo have all vowed there will be no security sector reforms, even though Zuma said in his report to the Sadc Troika meeting held in Pretoria on March 9, that “security sector realignment” will have to be done before the election.

“Security sector realignment cannot be postponed any longer,” Zuma said in his report to the Troika. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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