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Southern African Grouping Rules Out Early Summit on Zimbabwe Issues

The Southern African Development Community has ruled out calling an extraordinary summit to take up issues that have been troubling the national unity government in Harare since its formation nearly six months ago, a top SADC official told VOA on Thursday.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has traveled to South Africa for a meeting with President Jacob Zuma, who is the current chairman of SADC, in which he was expected to detail a long list of what his Movement for Democratic Change formation considers to be breaches of the September 2008 Global Political Agreement by President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF.

But on Friday that meeting was hanging in the balance. Tsvangirai James Maridadi confirmed Mr. Tsvangirai was in South Africa and waiting for confirmation of the meeting. But Zuma spokesman Vincent Magwenya said the South African leader wants to reschedule.

Mr Tsvangirai sought the discussion to mollify aggrieved members of his party who want him to pull out of the government as judicial authorities in Harare step up prosecutions of MDC legislators in what the Tsvangirai formation says is a bid to eliminate its House majority.

Mr. Mugabe has also refused to consider replacing Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono or Attorney General Johannes Tomana, who he appointed in late 2008 after the signature of a power-sharing agreement without consulting the MDC.

Mr. Tsvangirai was expected to ask Mr. Zuma to convene an urgent summit on Zimbabwe.

But SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao told VOA that Zimbabwe will only be taken up when leaders of the regional organization come together in September. Salamao met Finance Minister Tendai Biti in Botswana Thursday to discuss the tense climate in Harare.

ZANU-PF sources told VOA they do not expect SADC to censure the former ruling party as the government has taken steps to reform the media sector and revise the constitution.

Sources said ZANU-PF is supported in this position by the MDC formation of Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, which is said to be satisfied with the progress achieved by the government since its launch in February, isolating Mr. Tsvangirai.

Lawyer and political analyst Theressa Mugadza told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai’s strategy of appealing to SADC is pragmatic.

Meanwhile, authorities arrested another member of Parliament of Mr. Tsvangirai’s MDC formation, this time in the Mashonaland West capital of Chinhoyi, for singing an anti-Mugabe song. In Harare, prosecutors invoked the controversial Section 121 of the country's Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act to block the release on bail of Deputy Youth Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu, accused of stealing a mobile phone from a prominent war veteran.

Thomas Chiripasi reported on the move by state prosecutors which left Mahlangu locked up.

Elsewhere, the Tsvangirai MDC called on the government to pardon convicted legislators, accusing the office of the attorney general and ZANU-PF influenced members of the judiciary of selectively prosecuting MDC lawmakers on trumped up charges for political gain.

The party wants immediate “reversal and quashing” of convictions and prosecutions.

But political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that further politicizing the judicial process through a pardon process would further undermine the rule of law and set a precedent that could benefit perpetrators of political violence.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...