5 August 2009
South African President Jacob Zuma indicated on Monday that he would be contacting Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to discuss tensions in that country’s unity government, following a meeting with Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
“Given this situation, I will be contacting President Robert Mugabe on the matters raised by Tsvangirai,” Zuma told reporters in Johannesburg after meeting with Tsvangirai.
Zuma said he would also contact other Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to “brief them on how we can continue working together to make quick progress in Zimbabwe.”
Tsvangirai told reporters that it was “five months since the formation of the unity government, so I was updating Zuma, as the chairperson of the Southern African Development Community, on the progress and areas of slow progress.”
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change claims there has been a recent crackdown on its members.
While the issues that Zuma and Tsvangirai discussed were not mentioned, Tsvangirai said he was pleased by Zuma’s willingness to intervene.
Zuma said he was confident that agreement on outstanding issues would be reached, adding that former president Thabo Mbeki, who mediated the agreement of the unity government, had also been briefed on the situation via a letter.
Zuma said the problems in neighbouring Zimbabwe were “weighty”, but could be resolved. Tsvangirai had “indicated few deadlocks that we still need to look at, but I am confident that they will be sorted out.”
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has claimed a recent crackdown on its members, following the arrests of several lawmakers which it says are aimed at robbing the party of its slim parliamentary majority.
Key appointments, including the appointment of Zimbabwe’s central bank chief and attorney-general, have been referred to the SADC for regional mediation.
Tsvangirai is frustrated by the lack of progress in resolving the thorniest issues in the agreement, after Mugabe apparently refused to budge on his re-appointment of Gideon Gono as Reserve Bank governor and Johannes Tomana as attorney-general.
The MDC also says scores of party legislators, students, activists, lawyers and ordinary party members have been arrested or are missing, while there reports that farm invasions are continuing in the country.
The MDC holds a slim majority in Zimbabwe’s parliament, but some MDC members of parliament are awaiting trial or have been convicted of political crimes and have been suspended from parliament. The MDC says the claims against its members are politically motivated.
The MDC joined Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party in a fragile coalition government set up in February, nearly a year after disputed elections, in an agreement brokered by the 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 prompting millions of Zimbabweans to flee into South Africa.