SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma is expected to up the pressure on his Zimbabwean counterpart, President Robert Mugabe to solve the crisis north of the Limpopo as ZANU-PF dilly dallies on reforms before elections.
With harmonised elections expected within six months, there is no movement on the election roadmap spearheaded by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The four-year old inclusive government that came into being courtesy of pressure from the regional grouping, has also seen its fair share of problems and is largely dysfunctional.
Besides the draft constitution, there is disagreement over use of diamond revenue, alleged partisan policing, media, electoral and security sector reforms. There are fears of a repeat of the 2008 political violence should elections be held this year.
But it is the constitution, which is yet to be finalised, that many see as the bedrock of all other reforms. Squabbling over the draft constitution has been taken to the highest offices in the land, that of the President and the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai who late last year appointed a special task force to tackle contested issues.
But the task force itself had its problems, having held no single meeting a month after its appointment. When the task force did hold its first meeting, nothing concrete was achieved and to date, there is no solution in sight. ZANU-PF has over 30 issues it wants addressed.
Critics have, however, said ZANU-PF is content on running down the calendar in attempts to see off the lifespan of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) induced inclusive government without concluding requisite reforms so that elections can be held under the current Lancaster House Constitution that favours President Mugabe's party, which wields considerable power through critical line ministries.
President Mugabe's party had tabled 266 amendments to the draft constitution and has resolved to force them through. The constitutional impasse saw some senior ZANU-PF stalwarts upping the tempo on calls for elections without a new constitution. Largely, this is what the party wants.
Yet this flies in the face of SADC's efforts and indications are that the SADC mediator, Zuma, will put pressure on President Mugabe to at least put in place conditions for a free and fair poll.
On his part, President Mugabe is desperate for regional and international legitimacy, which he could not get after the bloody 2008 polls.
Asked to comment on developments in Zimbabwe and areas of priority for the SADC appointed mediator, Lindiwe Zulu who is the spokesperson for the mediation process, said Zuma would this year insist on full implementation of the election roadmap as a way of ensuring successful completion of the GPA.
"The GPA comes to an end this year and so its full implementation must be accomplished. The priority is to continue the responsibility given to him by the SADC; that means pushing for the GPA's full implementation This means engagement with the three parties (ZANU-PF and the two MDCs) particularly to complete the constitution-making process and to finalise the election roadmap," said Zulu who is also Zuma's international relations advisor.
The elections roadmap defines milestones and signposts that must be implemented before the next election. These milestones and signposts include the lifting of sanctions, the constitutional process, media reform, electoral reform, rule of law, freedom of association and assembly, legislative agenda and the actual election.
Zulu said her boss would focus on these outstanding issues in Zimbabwe with a view to pushing the three parties to speed up conclusion of the constitution.
"Remember after the Second All Stakeholders' Conference the process had slowed down so the most important thing is that everything depends on the three political parties. He (Zuma) will focus on outstanding issues since the GPA comes to an end this year," said Zulu.
Zuma has been instrumental in pushing ZANU-PF back to the negotiating table several times in the past two years as President Mugabe's party tried to wiggle out of the inclusive government through immediate elections "with or without a new constitution".
Zulu said SADC would continue to push for an end to political violence and would also push for the strengthening of the Joint Monitoring and Implementa-tion Committee. She called on the "relevant authorities" to ensure an end to political violence.
Zuma was re-elected African National Congress president last December meaning that he will continue as his country's president until 2014. This means he will remain as SADC mediator to Zimbabwe.
Source: FINANCIAL GAZETTE