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Zimbabwe Mission Accomplished, Says Zuma

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma.

South African President Jacob Zuma says the Southern African Development Community has accomplished its mission in Zimbabwe, adding the mediation process is now closed.

Speaking with the South African Broadcasting Corporation after the weekend SADC summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, Mr. Zuma, the region’s point person in Harare, said mediating in Harare between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the two MDC formations of outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube was not an easy task.

But, he added, he was glad that it was all over with fresh, peaceful elections giving President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party a new five-year mandate.

“We succeeded. As you know SADC delivered the peaceful, free elections – there was no violence that you saw in 2008 this time around and I think people came out and voted,” said Mr. Zuma.

SADC has been criticized by civil society groups from Zimbabwe and the region for endorsing the Zimbabwe election without seriously looking at the flaws the opposition MDC and local monitors say impacted the poll negatively.

Mr. Zuma said South Africa had carried out its mandate in Harare diligently, adding it was now up to Zimbabweans from the opposing political parties to work together.

Asked what this meant, especially as Mr. Tsvangirai was refusing to accept the outcome of the July 31 elections, Mr. Zuma said; “Really, it’s all systems go, as it were. I think the people are preparing to finalize the inauguration and other things and therefore the matter has been closed. We have done our bit.”

Speaking at the SADC summit over the weekend, Mr. Mugabe described President Zuma as a patient facilitator.

“He is a patient man,” said Mr. Mugabe. “He was handling a difficult matter and we Zimbabweans did not make matters easier.

“We were a very difficult customer to the facilitator - a temperamental one too. I even shouted at one of his officers. It is not that I hate her or I sought to berate President Zuma through her.

“Quite to the contrary, I love her, something that can make many of you wonder given that I am 89 years old.”

Mr. Mugabe was making reference to Lindiwe Zulu, a member of President Zuma’s facilitation team, silenced by Pretoria on the eve of the Zimbabwe elections after public complaints by Mr. Mugabe who at one time labeled her an “idiotic woman”.

Zulu and President Mugabe had the opportunity to kiss and make up at the summit, literally. Mr. Mugabe kissed Zulu on the cheek twice after she was presented by President Zuma to the 89-year old at the end of the summit.

President Mugabe will be sworn into office to start a fresh five-year mandate Thursday but his main political foe and rival in the past three elections, Mr. Tsvangirai, says he will not accept the results.

Meanwhile, wrapping up its annual summit that endorsed the disputed re-election of President Robert Mugabe Sunday, the Southern African Development Community urged western countries to remove sanctions on the long-ruling leader and his Zanu PF colleagues.

SADC demanded the lifting of all forms of sanctions saying the measures were affecting the generality of Zimbabweans.

The regional grouping also angered Zimbabwean civil society groups after endorsing the July 31 election that critics say was marred by voter fraud.

SADC leaders went on to elect Mr. Mugabe its deputy chairperson, announcing a summit of the regional leaders has been slotted for Harare sometime next year.

Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo, director of Habakkuk Trust, says SADC made a mistake of measuring Zimbabwe’s election credibility by lack of physical violence.