Zuma heads for Zim to soothe tensions

2009-08-27 14:40

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma travels to Zimbabwe today in a bid to ease

tensions within the strained unity government, though analysts held out

little hope for a breakthrough.

During his two-day visit,

Zuma is set to meet with long-ruling President Robert Mugabe and his

new partner in government, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The

former rivals formed a unity government in February but remain

deadlocked over the appointment of the central bank chief and the

attorney general.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic

Change (MDC) says the party’s supporters are still harassed by police,

despite guarantees of political freedom in the unity accord.

“We

hope that Zuma’s visit will unlock and unblock the political logjam in

our country,” said Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for Tsvangirai’s MDC.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba has downplayed the

trip, telling state media that Zuma was coming to address the Harare

Agricultural Fair on Friday.

But Zuma plans to be vocal

about Zimbabwe’s problems, in contrast to the “quiet diplomacy” of his

predecessor Thabo Mbeki, the secretary general of his African National

Congress (ANC) told reporters.

“President Zuma will be more

vocal in terms of what we see as deviant behaviour,” Gwede Mantashe

told reporters. “If there is deviant behaviour, we will be more vocal

... but we will still engage.”

South Africa, Zimbabwe’s

biggest trading partner, is a key backer of the unity deal. Zuma’s

findings will likely inform discussions at the summit of the Southern

African Development Community (SADC) next month.

President

Zuma will be determined to use the visit to “solve the outstanding

issues” in the unity government, political analyst Okay Machisa said.

“Although he might not find a solution during his two-day visit, eventually a solution will be found,” Machisa said.

“He would want the local politicians to address the welfare of the people and not address their selfish needs.

Tsvangirai met Zuma in Johannesburg three weeks ago to brief him on the troubles within the unity government.

On

Mugabe’s side, the 85-year-old leader faces pressure within his own

Zanu-PF to avoid any more compromises that would further erode the

party’s power.

The party’s politburo earlier this month publicly called on Mugabe “to resist any pressures intended to prejudice the party”.

The

feuding has hindered Zimbabwe’s drive to win $8.3 billion (about R65

billion) in aid to revive the civil service and jumpstart the shattered

economy.

To date the inclusive government has raised just more than $2 billion, mostly coming from continental organisations and China.

Takura

Zhangazha, director of the Media Institute of Zimbabwe, said he doubted

that any breakthrough would come before the Southern African

Development Community (SADC) summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“He

will be briefed on the progress and the problems before the SADC

summit, but he is obviously not going to solve the main issues before

it,” Zhangazha said.

One South African government official in Harare insisted Zuma was coming to seek compromise.

“There

are issues which have to be addressed, but as South Africa we believe

that every problem presents a new opportunity,” the official told AFP.

“Zimbabwe is far better today than what it was last year, so we believe a compromise will eventually be found.”

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