Zuma put pressure on Mugabe in talks
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma left Zimbabwe yesterday after reportedly putting real pressure on the three leaders of the fractious unity government to sort out their problems fast if they want to see the crippled country recover.
After several hours of meetings with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Zuma urged them publicly to speed up the process of implementing the Global Political Agreement (GPA) they signed last September to establish the unity government.
Speaking to a huge crowd at the Harare Agricultural Show which he opened, he said the Zimbabwean leaders had to implement reforms if they hoped to get the international assistance vital for the economy.
Zuma will now prepare his own report to be presented and discussed at the Souther n African Development Community (SADC) summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in two weeks’ time.
It also emerges that Zuma wanted to meet the Zimbabwean leaders himself before the SADC meeting because he did not want to rely solely on the report of SADC mediator, former president Thabo Mbeki, as some see Mbeki as biased towards Mugabe.
Zuma did not speak to the press before his departure for Johannesburg yesterday, but he made clear his concerns about failure to implement the agreement while addressing the crowd at the show ground.
“We are aware that some economic and development partners and donor countries have put some benchmarks to be met before they can extend financial assistance and currently only offer humanitarian assistance.
“Since these relate to the implementation of the GPA, to which signatories remain fully committed, meeting benchmarks should be a priority in the inclusive government. We appeal to the international community to remove any remaining hindrances to Zimbabwe’s recovery, including sanctions.
“At the same time, we also emphasise that the parties in Zimbabwe should work together to remove any remaining obstacles … we discussed the critical issues relating to the implementation. The parties are in agreement on the need to speed up implementation and to find solutions to the current points of disagreement,” said Zuma.
Zuma also encouraged donors to provide developmental aid for the government to discharge its responsibilities, but stressed this can only be done if the GPA is fully implemented to create international confidence.
In a statement viewed as an indirect attack on Mugabe, Zuma called on African leaders to promote democracy, the respect for human rights and the improvement of governance.
Privately Zuma was far tougher, according to sources in the SA delegation. They said unlike Mbeki, Zuma’s approach was forthright and he reportedly put pressure on Mugabe.
“We did not come here to praise-sing or to favour anyone,” said a top Zuma aide.
“We came here to try and find a solution to the political crisis in Zimbabwe and President Zuma made it clear to all the political leaders that he had not come to waste time debating. He encouraged the leaders to implement what is in the agreement.
“The president’s speech was straight forward. The leaders have to reform and during meetings he was frank with them … I think there is hope. President Zuma believes that the differences were narrowed after meeting the leaders.”
TOUGH TALK: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, left, smiles as he tours the Harare Agriculture Show with President Jacob Zuma. The SA President held talks with Mugabe and other leaders of Zimbabwe’s unity government to try to end feuding between the coalition partners.