Zuma’s team in Zim for polls roadmap

Harare – South African President Jacob Zuma’s mediation team is in Zimbabwe to push for a cross-party roadmap to new elections in the country. The team began a round of talks with the country’s main political parties on Tuesday where they met officials from the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) – a body set up to monitor compliance with a 2008 power sharing agreement between Zanu PF and the two rival MDC factions. On Wednesday, Zuma’s emissaries held talks with Moses Mzila Ndlovu and Priscilla Misihairabwi – the two negotiators from the MDC led by Welshman Ncube. They later separately met with Ncube. The team meets officials from the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday, and are expected to meet Zanu PF negotiators and President Robert Mugabe on Friday. Ncube told New Zimbabwe.com: “President Zuma is particularly anxious to ensure there is broad agreement on conditions necessary to hold free and fair elections. His mediation team is here to help kick-start that process at the end of which the parties hopefully agree on the minimum conditions necessary before we go to elections.” Zuma was named by regional leaders as the point man in the resolution of political disputes in Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe was forced into a shaky power sharing arrangement with his former opposition rivals in 2008. Mugabe’s Zanu PF party says it wants elections later this year, ideally under a new constitution, but warns that it could force the dissolution of the coalition if it feels Tsvangirai’s MDC, in particular, is delaying a constitutional referendum, and therefore the elections. The MDC factions, on the other hand, are demanding a raft of political, media, police, army and electoral reforms and guarantees to avoid a repeat of a March 2008 ballot which ended in a wave of political violence blamed on Mugabe’s supporters. Zanu PF’s top decision making body the politburo met on Wednesday and restated its desire to have elections this year, while accusing Finance Minister Tendai Biti of withholding funds for a referendum on a draft constitution. Party spokesman Joram Gumbo said: “We are mainly concerned in the delay in releasing money to conclude the work of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee. It is deliberate. The Ministry of Finance wants the situation we are in to continue. “We are saying Biti has to act; if he does not act then we can walk out of the coalition.”

February 2011
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