Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has embarked on a new regional diplomatic initiative ahead of an extraordinary Southern African Development Community summit meeting called for next month to focus on the crisis in Harare.
Mr. Tsvangirai was in Maseru, Lesotho, on Thursday, and was expected to meet Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos on Monday.
SADC Head of Communication Leefa Martin confirmed in an interview with VOA that the meeting has been tentatively set for May 20 in Namibia. Official communications have already been dispatched to SADC heads of state.
Diplomatic sources said Southern African leaders agreed the extraordinary summit is necessary to deal decisively with crises in Madagascar as well as Zimbabwe.
The same sources say SADC will again deliver an admonition to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe not to call snap elections this year without needed reforms.
Some SADC leaders were also unhappy with remarks by Mr. Mugabe and officials of his former ruling ZANU-PF party attacking the regional body for effectively rebuking him in a meeting of its troika on politics, defense and security in Zambia last week.
Mr. Mugabe accused SADC of trying to meddle in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs and state newspapers published harsh criticisms of South African President Jacob Zuma, who as SADC's mediator in the Harare crisis was present at the troika session. Mr. Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, later said the articles did not express policy.
ZANU-PF sources meanwhile said the party is considering sending envoys around the region. Some party officials feel they were outmaneuvered by Mr. Tsvangirai ahead of the troika session, as he met many key regional leaders ahead of the mini-summit.
Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that his boss updated his Maseru counterpart about the crisis in Harare's unity government.
Bulawayo-based political analyst Mandlenkosi Gatsheni told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Mr. Tsvangirai's regional diplomatic contacts have borne fruit given SADC's new and tougher stance vis à vis President Mugabe.
The mini-summit said political violence and partisan arrests in Zimbabwe must end. SADC has often been accused of reluctance to confront Mr. Mugabe.