Zuma to discuss tensions in Zim with Mugabe

Monday, August 3, 2009

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma indicated on Monday that he would contact President Robert Mugabe to discuss tensions in that country's unity government.

"Given this situation, I would be contacting President Robert Mugabe on the matters as well as Arthur Mutambara.

"I will contact colleagues in the region and brief them on how we can continue working together to make quick progress in Zimbabwe," President Zuma told reporters after a meeting with Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

President Zuma met with Mr Tsvangirai to discuss how Zimbabwe's five-month old unity government is faring, as his party claims a crackdown on its members.

"Its five months since the formation of the unity government, so I was updating the President, as the chairperson of the Southern African Development Community, on the progress and areas of slow progress," said Mr Tsvangirai.

Although the issues that the President and the Prime Minister discussed were not mentioned, Mr Tsvangirai highlighted that he was pleased by the willingness of Mr Zuma to intervene.

President Zuma was confident that an agreement would be reached on the outstanding issues, adding that former president Thabo Mbeki who mediated the agreement of the unity government, was also briefed on the progress via a letter.

President Zuma said the problems in neighboring Zimbabwe were "weighty" but can be resolved.

"The Prime Minister indicated few deadlocks that we still need to look at, but I am confident that they will be sorted out," said Mr Zuma.

Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has claimed a recent crackdown on its members, following arrests of several lawmakers which it says are aimed at robbing the party of its slim parliamentary majority.

Key appointments such the central bank chief and the attorney general have been referred for regional mediation.

Mr Tsvangirai is hugely frustrated by the lack of progress in solving the thorniest issues in the agreement, after Mr Mugabe apparently refused to budge on his re-appointment of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana.

The three principals have since declared a deadlock on these two issues, meriting intervention from SADC as guarantors of the deal.

Furthermore, the MDC says scores of party legislators, students, activists, lawyers and ordinary party members have been arrested or are missing. There are also reports that farm invasions are continuing in the beleaguered country.

The MDC holds a slim majority in Zimbabwe's parliament, but some MDC parliament members are awaiting trial or have been convicted of crimes and have been suspended from parliament.

The MDC says the claims against the parliament members are politically motivated.

The MDC joined President Mugabe's ruling party in a fragile coalition government set up on 13 February, nearly a year after disputed polls, in an agreement brokered by SADC.

The unity government was created to end the violence that erupted after disputed election results led to a political deadlock, crippling the country's economy and saw millions of Zimbabweans fleeing into South Africa.