Zimbabwe: Zuma Denies Walking Away

SOUTH Africa President Jacob Zuma’s office on Wednesday dismissed media reports claiming he would tell leaders at an SADC summit, that he had accomplished his mission in Zimbabwe.

“The story goes on to speculate that President Zuma would tell regional leaders at the SADC summit, that ‘they should relieve him of his job as facilitator and they are likely to agree with him’,” spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

“We wish to clarify that should President Zuma or the South African government have any position on Zimbabwe, such information is communicated directly through to the Southern African Development Community [SADC] or publicly when necessary.”

Zuma was appointed by SADC to help facilitate negotiations between Zanu PF and the MDC parties for reforms leading to new elections after the regional block intervened to compel the rival parties to form a unity government following violent polls in 2008.

Despite being undermined by bitter disputes between the parties the unity administration is credited with helping ease political tensions and putting the country’s economy on a path to recovery as well as implementing reforms that included a new constitution.

Outgoing Prime Minister and MDC-T leader accused President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF of blocking full implementation of agreed reforms. Tsvangirai also failed with a court bid to delay the July 31 vote to facilitate implementation of further reforms which he said would ensure free and fair elections.

The MDC-T leader and his party were subsequently defeated decisively in the elections which they have rejected as a monumental farce.

On Tuesday, a South African newspaper reported that officials said Zuma had achieved the three main aims of his facilitation in Zimbabwe on behalf of the SADC.

These were the formation of the inclusive government, comprising Zanu PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions; the adoption of a new constitution; and the holding of the 31 July presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections.

But Maharaj said the presidency distanced itself from the report.

“[The presidency] rejects the utilisation of gossip and rumour to communicate a serious matter as South Africa’s mediation role in the neighbouring Zimbabwe,” he said.

Still, speaking after the elections, Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the party did not see any need for Zuma’s role.

“We believe that Mugabe’s landslide victory has put an end to facilitation. There is no need for facilitation in Zimbabwe anymore,” said Gumbo.

Zuma will attend SADC heads of state and government summit in Malawi this weekend.