South African President Jacob Zuma this week sent his top Zimbabwe facilitator on a low-key mission to Harare amid rising tension in the unity government there over a range of longstanding and new contentious issues.
Zuma envoy Mac Maharaj arrived on Tuesday and was expected to meet with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
Sources said Maharaj would also meet with negotiators from ZANU-PF and both formations of the Movement for Democratic Change. However, one Zimbabwean negotiator denied this, saying, "He is here for meetings with the (government) principals only. We have nothing to discuss with him as negotiators."
Another Zuma adviser, Lindiwe Zulu, said Pretoria would step up its mediation role in Harare ahead of the Southern African Development Community summit in Namibia next month.
The list of grievances of Mr. Tsvangirai’s wing of the MDC continues to grow, now including unilateral appointments of ambassadors by Mr. Mugabe and incessant musical spots on state media praising ZANU-PF and the president.
The party adds that Mugabe spokesman George Charamba continues to denigrate Mr. Tsvangirai, while Mr. Mugabe still has not sworn in Roy Bennett, a senator and MDC party treasurer, as deputy agriculture minister. A high court judge dismissed charges Bennett plotted to overthrow Mr. Mugabe's government in 2006, but the Office of the Attorney General will be back in court this week seeking to overturn that judgment.
Facilitator Maharaj told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu the latest facilitation effort is in its early stages.
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said President Zuma’s focus must now be on ensuring free and fair elections should Zimbabwe hold elections next year as many anticipate, saying other issues have become irrelevant.
Though ZANU-PF and the Tsvangirai MDC have been throwing out signals lately that they are prepared to go to the polls in 2011, many observers say the country is simply not ready for a ballot. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission added its own reservations last week saying it needs a year to clean up the widely discredited voters roll.
ZANU-PF rallied its faithful in a recent statement to gear up for polls, and such utterances have been echoed by the Tsvangirai MDC in its own gatherings. Both say the power-sharing arrangement has run its course.
Sources in the MDC say breaches of the Global Political Agreement by ZANU-PF have sharpened the party’s appetite for decisive new elections.
But political analyst Bhekilizwe Ndlovu of the Union for Sustainable Democracy told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that sweeping electoral reforms must be put in place before elections can be held.