Zuma in Zim for fresh mediation bid

2010-03-16 15:03

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma was expected in neighbouring Zimbabwe today,

for a three-day visit aimed at resolving the disputes that have hobbled the

country’s power-sharing government for the past year.

The visit is Zuma’s first since he took over as mediator in

Zimbabwe from former president Thabo Mbeki last year, and comes amid growing

pressure on him to take a firm hand with strongman President Robert

Mugabe.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party in February last year relented to form a

coalition government with the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change

(MDC) of Morgan Tsvangirai as a way of rescuing the country from economic

collapse.

The MDC had won violence-marred elections the previous year.

The unity government did succeed in halting the downward economic

spiral in the first few months but that progress has juddered to a halt as the

parties become bogged down in bickering.

The MDC accuses Zanu-PF of failing to honour its commitments to

implement governance and rights reforms while Zanu-PF accuses the MDC of not

doing enough to have Western countries’ targeted sanctions lifted.

Zuma’s visit comes amid reports of skirmishes between Zanu-PF and

the MDC supporters in the east of the country and a row over the introduction of

new laws on white business ownership.

Under a new indigenisation law gazetted last month by one of

Mugabe’s ministers, without apparently consulting the MDC, companies with assets

of over half-a-million US dollars are required to hand control of the company to

“indigenous” black Zimbabweans.

The law, which came into effect on March 1 but the cabinet is

currently reviewing, would affect several South African mining companies

operating in Zimbabwe.

When he became president last year, Zuma was expected to take a

firmer hand with Mugabe than Mbeki, who had taken a softly-softly approach to

the iron-fisted 86-year-old.

But Zuma, too, has appeared timid. In meetings with Western

leaders, he has been more vocal in support of Mugabe’s campaign to lift

sanctions than the need for further reforms in the country.


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