Zuma's Zim talks going 'very well'

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday said talks with South African President Jacob Zuma had gone "very well" but did not say whether they were closer to resolving their power-sharing dispute.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who is third signatory to the Zimbabwe power-sharing agreement, separately met Zuma earlier on Wednesday as the South African leader stepped up pressure for a solution to his northern neighbour's long running political stalemate.

Zuma, the Southern African Development Community (SADC)'s mediator in Zimbabwe, was due to meet Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara together on Thursday before returning to South Africa.

Mugabe was the first to meet with Zuma on Wednesday morning, and was later followed by Tsvangirai. Asked by reporters how the meeting went, Mugabe said "very well, as usual".

Tsvangirai, whose MDC party had long appealed to Zuma to step in to break the deadlock with Mugabe's ZANU PF party, also said his meeting with the South African President had gone on "very well", declining to disclose further detail.

MDC secretary general and chief negotiator in the inter-party talks Tendai Biti described the meetings with Zuma as okay but sounded more cautious, hinting that the outcome of Zuma's latest initiative would become clearer only at the end of his meeting with the three Zimbabwean principals.

"The meeting (was) okay," Biti told reporters. "It is too early to say anything, the.... meeting of the principals with President Zuma must be given a chance to resolve all the outstanding issues."

ZANU-PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa appeared keen to downplay the significance of Zuma's visit, saying the SADC mediator was in Harare primarily to get a first hand briefing on the progress of inter-party talks as well as the unity government.

"The whole purpose of this meeting is to advise the facilitator of the progress that we have made so far," Chinamasa said. "It will not be the end of the matter; we should meet as negotiators and conclude our negotiations.... we will conclude our discussions and spell out matters we have agreed on and on those we disagree on."

The unity government has stabilised Zimbabwe's economy to improve the lives of ordinary citizens. But a dispute between Tsvangirai and Mugabe over how to share executive power, senior appointments and security sector reforms is holding back the administration and threatening to render it ineffective.

The unity government's failure to win financial support from Western powers and multilateral institutions has also crippled its efforts to re