October 3, 2004

South Africa intensifies focus on Harare

South Africa has confirmed that it had stepped up contact with President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change ahead of Zimbabwe’s election early next year. "There has been a deliberate decision to intensify the contact with both parties in Zimbabwe," chief government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said. Zanu PF and the MDC sources in Harare said the South African government was now regularly focused on the Zimbabwean crisis. They said both parties briefed Pretoria at least once a week through its embassy in Harare, the Department of Foreign Affairs or President Thabo Mbeki’s office. Netshitenzhe further said that South Africa was encouraging the implementation of Southern African Development Community protocols for free and fair elections, which include the right to campaign freely, arrangements for the conduct and monitoring of the vote and free access to the media. Mugabe previously promised to engage the opposition in negotiations about election rules but little has come of his undertakings so far. The contact is being managed from the South African side by the director-general in Mbeki’s office, Frank Chikane, and by the President’s legal adviser, Mojanku Gumbi. A senior Zanu PF source also confirmed that Mbeki’s government was talking to his party "more often". (The Sunday Times, Johannesburg)

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