Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and South African President Jacob Zuma look to be on a collision course if the negotiations between the partners in the power-sharing government in Harare remain deadlocked despite Zuma's mediation.
Pretoria stepped up pressure on negotiators for the three unity government parties with an announcement saying it would not accept a report from them on March 31 that does not incorporate agreements that were reached with President Zuma's help during his visit last week.
The strong language from Pretoria came in response to a report in the pro-ZANU-PF state-run Herald newspaper saying ZANU-PF’s chief negotiator, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, had declared that the negotiators had reached no agreements with Zuma. The South African president said on concluding his visit that a "package of measures" was agreed through his mediation.
The Herald published a similar report early Saturday in Harare, this time attributing the position that there were no agreements reached under Mr. Zuma's mediation to President Mugabe himself, in remarks to the ZANU-PF central committee on Friday. Mr. Mugabe reportedly insisted ZANU-PF would not reach agreements with the MDC until Western sanctions have been lifted.
"The sanctions must go first!," the pro-ZANU-PF Herald quoted Mr. Mugabe as saying.
Political sources said Mr. Zuma secured undertakings from the parties for the appointment of provincial governors of the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change, among other outstanding issues. Negotiators were supposed to wrap up talks March 29, and report to Zuma by March 31, upon which Zuma would report to Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, chairman of the Southern African Development Community troika or committee on politics, defense and security.
Mr. Zuma is Zimbabwe mediator on SADC's behalf.
Sources privy to the talks said the latest discussions were proving difficult as negotiators grappled with Zuma’s demand for a clear implementation plan.
The sources said ZANU-PF negotiators were seeking to put off implementation. Such difficulties have led the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to ask Zuma to conduct further mediation.
But Zuma adviser Lindiwe Zulu, a member of the South African facilitation team, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that she and her associates would soon be back in Harare to continue work with the negotiators, and that it was premature for Zuma to intervene.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said that the South Africans are clearly turning up the heat on ZANU-PF.