Zuma visit rekindles hope among weary Zimbabweans

20:39, March 19, 2010      

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The majority of Zimbabweans may not get to know what really transpired behind closed doors when South African President Jacob Zuma had meetings with their leaders between Marc 16 and 18 but Zuma's visit to Harare rekindled their hopes for a brighter and more prosperous future.

Zuma, who is the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator of the Zimbabwe Global Political Agreement which brought about a power-sharing government early in 2009, appeared bent on ensuring that the political bickering dogging the inclusive government ended and the country moved forward.

A picture in a local newspaper on Friday showing President Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara sharing the couch while Zuma spoke to them may not have appeared unusual to many people, but few, if any, will recall any picture in which Mugabe shared a couch seat with someone else.

It was a picture which showed someone listening, and not talking. And Zuma had the floor.

The question to answer is whether Zimbabwe is now on the threshold of a completely different era where its political leaders finally agree to move the nation forward and address the problems afflicting citizens across the political divide.

The continued bickering among the principals in the GPA -- Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Mutambara -- has obviously frustrated Zuma who has his own problems at home, especially ensuring that his country successfully hosts the forthcoming FIFA World Cup tournament in June.

But he knows that without political stability in neighboring Zimbabwe, the position of the tournament remains in jeopardy as some countries hostile to Mugabe may want to take advantage of the situation and threaten to boycott.

Yet he did not come to Zimbabwe with prescribed solutions to its problems, but only with the conviction that the power-sharing agreement should work. He listened not only to Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara, but also to the negotiators and other stakeholders.

His spokesman Vincent Magwenya said the purpose of meeting the other stakeholders, including those at the center of disputes between Mugabe and the others, was to allow him to create an understanding on how to take matters forward.

There is renewed hope now that undertakings by the principals will yield positive results to a country whose economy has been struggling to the extent that it made its currency moribund to tame inflation.

Zuma said the parties had agreed to a package of measures to be implemented concurrently as per the decision of the SADC troika summit in Maputo which was convened after Tsvangirai had announced his party's partial disengagement from the inclusive government alleging lack on sincerity by Mugabe and his party.

"I am very encouraged by the spirit of cooperation displayed by the leaders and all the parties. I believe that the implementation of this package will take the process forward substantially," he said.

He said Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara had instructed their negotiators to complete their deliberations this month and report back to Zuma on progress made by March 31.

The negotiating teams will meet on March 25, 26 and 29, after which they will report to Zuma on whether or not they have reached agreement on all outstanding issues.

Zuma said he will present a comprehensive report to the chairperson of the Southern African Development Community Organ on Politics, Defense and Security, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, after getting feedback from the negotiators.

Among the outstanding issues, the two MDC factions led by Tsvangirai and Mutambara want Mugabe to reverse the appointments of provincial governors and appointments of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gileon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana. They want the posts of provincial governors to be reallocated according to which party prevailed in the particular province during the 2008 legislative elections.

Modalities will now have to be worked out on how the provincial governorships will be allocated, while the issue of Gono and Tomana could still remain sticky for a while and may have to be addressed by the principals themselves.

Gono is accused of having contributed the poor state of Zimbabwe's economy through engaging in quasi-fiscal activities, while Tomana has declared that he supports Mugabe's party.

Roy Bennett, who is the treasurer-general in Tsvangirai's party, is currently on trial at the High Court for terrorism, banditry and insurgency, with Tomana prosecuting.

He has pleaded not guilty, but Mugabe has refused to swear him into office until his case has been concluded and he is found not guilty.

Mugabe is also understood to be uncomfortable in swearing Bennett into an agricultural portfolio because of his alleged links to former Rhodesians whose land was expropriated in favor of blacks.

Mugabe wants Tsvangirai to denounce sanctions, which the MDC leader agreed to.

Zuma came with one card up his sleeve, and that was to make the Zimbabwean leaders stick to the letter and spirit of the GPA and in accordance to the November troika summit in Maputo.

So far he appears to have succeeded, and the onus is now on Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara to show their sincerity.

Source: Xinhua
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