Diplomatic sources say a move by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to neutralize the tough communiqué issued in April by the Southern African Development Community troika on Zimbabwe and dismantle the facilitation team of South African President Jacob Zuma, SADC's mediator in Harare, has hit a brick wall and stirred regional backlash.
The Livingstone, Zambia, meeting of SADC's troika politics, defense and security called on President Mugabe to halt political violence and accelerate democratic reforms. The statement was widely seen as a rebuke to President Mugabe and a 180-degree turn by the regional organization, which has often been hesitant to confront him.
Southern African diplomatic sources and SADC officials say they were shocked by the initiative pursued by various high-level Mugabe envoys dispatched last week to regional capitals ahead of the SADC summit on Friday in Windhoek, Namibia. That summit was to have taken up Zimbabwean issues before a last minute change of agenda.
President Mugabe met Namibian leader Hifikipunye Pohamba, current SADC chairman. Vice President John Nkomo was dispatched to South Africa and Botswana.
Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa was in Tanzania, Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa traveled to Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while National Security Minister Sydney Sekeramai was sent to Mozambique and Zambia and Land Reform Minister Herbert Murerwa lobbied in Seychelles and Mauritius.
Zimbabwe's former ruling party also dispatched non-governmental organizations led by party activist Goodson Nguni under aegis of the All-Africa Association of NGOs.
Nguni is said to have been distributing a pamphlet during the Windhoek summit entitled, "The MDC and the Culture of Violence." The document sought to blame political violence in Zimbabwe on Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai Movement for Democratic Change.
Diplomatic sources say regional leaders are determined to deal decisively with Harare when they meet June 11 in South Africa, and to adopt the Livingstone resolutions.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that ZANU-PF's attempt to stem the tide of pressure for on reforms has been counterproductive.
In Johannesburg, meanwhile, civic groups led by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition expressed outrage at the harassment and detention of activists at the SADC summit by Namibian security officials and Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported on the controversy.