Hitches in Zim unity govt – Zuma

2012-08-16 07:00

Harare – President Jacob Zuma has conceded challenges in Zimbabwe’s unity government after meeting with leaders of the three main party leaders, days before a summit of the regional mediator, the Southern African Development Community.

“I think there is progress that has been made but there are some hitches here and there,” Zuma told reporters yesterday after he was briefed on reforms in talks with President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

“The issues are no longer as major as they used to be,” he said, after his first visit since 2010 to the country.

After years of stalling, Zimbabwe last month finished a draft constitution that could send voters to a referendum by the end of the year, following deadly 2008 polls.

But Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has changed some parts of the draft constitution, he told reporters without specifying.

“We’ve considered the draft and we’ve made amendments to the draft,” he said.

“We’ll meet as principals to exchange our ideas,” he said about the unity government leaders.

The “hitches” referred to disagreements on the draft master law, Tsvangirai said after meeting with Zuma.

“It’s mainly around the constitution,” he said.

Tsvangirai, however, said some of the disagreements would be discussed at the 15-nation Southern African Development Community summit in Maputo on Friday.

“It has been decided that this matter will be revisited at the summit,” he said.

Mugabe, however, didn’t “see any controversial issues” going into the summit.

The referendum on the law would be the first balloting since a 2008 presidential run-off that long-ruling Mugabe won – after his arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the race in hopes of ending attacks that left more than 200 of his supporters dead.

Under intense regional pressure, they formed a unity government tasked with drafting a new constitution and enshrining greater political freedoms – with the ultimate goal of new elections.

Zuma’s visit came “against a background of tremendous progress made in terms of the constitution-making process and in respect of the consolidation of peace in the country,” Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba told AFP before the meeting.

He also met with Welshman Ncube, who heads a faction of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and whose son is married to one of Zuma’s daughters.

The work of the compromise government has been characterised by frequent haggling over government posts and counter-accusations of violence.

The parties have both threatened to pull out of the power-sharing government.

Early this year, Mugabe threatened to reject Zuma as negotiator if he showed any bias in his mediation.
Zuma will want to shepherd Zimbabwe toward its referendum, which if held later this year could lead to elections in 2013.

The draft constitution would rein in presidential powers while bolstering those of parliament.

It would also set down a presidential term limit of 10 years and strip away the president’s immunity from prosecution after leaving office.

The MDC has endorsed the draft charter as the best basic law in the country’s history, adding that it would be a lost chance if the proposed constitution is rejected.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has said it wants parts of the constitution amended before it is passed – particularly on issues of who can receive citizenship and how provincial governors are appointed.

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