Southern African Development Community leaders converged Friday on Johannesburg for a special summit on trade to include a sidebar discussion on Zimbabwe.
The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was calling on SADC to adopt resolutions on Zimbabwe issued in March by its troika on politics, defense and security in their entirety.
The so-called Livingstone communiqué urged President Robert Mugabe to bring a halt to political violence and to accelerate reforms or risk a descent into domestic turmoil. The troika's statement was seen by many as an admonishment to Mr. Mugabe and a major diplomatic setback for his former ruling ZANU-PF party.
President Mugabe met Friday with South African President Jacob Zuma in a courtesy visit but journalists seeking comments afterwards got only a photo opportunity.
SADC discussions on Zimbabwe will take place on the sidelines of a tripartite summit on trade bringing together top officials of of that organization, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, or Comesa, and the East Africa Community.
But the Zimbabwe discussion stand to upstage talks on trade integration.
The so-called road map to the next Zimbabwe elections will be at the center of SADC deliberations. Observers will be reading the final communiqué closely to see whether the regional body recommends the elections be held this year or put off to 2012.
Political violence is another hot issue. The MDC is likely to accuse ZANU-PF of using it systematically to intimidate opponents and the electorate. But the former ruling party will almost certainly point to the death of a policeman in Glen View, Harare, in late May, allegedly at the hands of Tsvangirai MDC supporters, to counter such claims.
ZANU-PF Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that his party wants SADC leaders to draft a clear road map to the next elections such that they can be held as soon as possible. He said the national unity government put in place in early 2009 is hopelessly mired and must urgently be replaced.
MDC officials have stated that elections should not be held until there have been major reforms of the electoral system and of the national security apparatus, arguing that the police, the army and the Central Intelligence Organization are ZANU-PF partisans.
South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance issued a statement urging Mr. Zuma and SADC to find a lasting solution to Harare’s political problems at the summit.
DA foreign relations shadow minister Stevens Mokgalapa said SADC should discourage Mr. Mugabe from calling elections until the many outstanding issues troubling the unity government have been resolved and significant reforms have been implemented.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he was hopeful SADC would give Zimbabwe clear direction toward reform.
Zimbabwean expatriates in Johannesburg were planning what they called an "elections road map solidarity" march and rally Saturday promoting a 10-point plan for democracy in Zimbabwe. Organizer Trust Ndlovu said his group hopes for a large turnout to show SADC leaders and Zimbabwean officials they must work in the people’s interest.