March 22, 2011

South African mediation team due back in Harare / Banned newspaper returns

South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team will once again return to Zimbabwe this week, as part of Zuma’s mediation efforts in the political crisis. The team’s return follows Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s regional lobbying efforts last week. The MDC leader told regional leaders that the coalition government was under the control of “dark and sinister forces,” and warned that the country was on the verge of sliding into a police state. He urged the region to intervene in Zimbabwe immediately, before the level of violence seen in 2008 returned.

Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe after his quick tour to South Africa, where he met leaders from Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana and South Africa. South Africa’s Zuma, who is the regionally appointed mediator in Zimbabwe, reacted by promising to send his three-member facilitation team back to the country. The team is led Charles Nqakula and includes former Minister Mac Maharaj and Zuma’s international relations advisor, Lindiwe Zulu. “South Africa has been tasked by SADC to work with the Zimbabwean parties to find solutions to their political challenges,” the South African presidency said in a statement on Friday.“ President Zuma will next week send his Zimbabwe facilitation team to Harare to meet parties to the Global Political Agreement.”

The visit by the team comes ahead of a meeting of the regional SADC troika on peace and security, set to take place in Zambia on March 31, to deal with the Zimbabwe crisis. In the past two years Zuma appears to have made little headway in persuading Mugabe to actually implement the GPA, which led to the unity government. Observers have expressed little hope that yet another visit from his facilitation team will make any difference at all.

In the meantime, the Daily News, once Zimbabwe's best-selling paper, is again on sale after being banned for eight years following criticism of President Robert Mugabe. Its editorial says it will "take a critical stand against bad governance". Before being banned in 2003, its printing press was blown up and its journalists arrested on numerous occasions. Relaxing strict press controls was a condition for the former opposition to join the unity government in 2009. But tension is rising between President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai, ahead of elections which could take place this year. Both men have said the power-sharing government was no longer working. (The Zimbabwean)

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