Following much lobbying by Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change formation, the Southern African Development Community’s troika on security was set to meet in Zambia on Thursday to discuss the crisis in Harare.
SADC has invited not only the three principals in Zimbabwe's unity government – President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, but also MDC formation leader Welshman Ncube, sources said.
Sources in Ncube's party said they have demanded that Mutambara be excluded from the session. The party says he is not the legitimate deputy prime minister or principal in the unity government now that he is no longer the head of the formation.
SADC sources acknowledged that the MDC intra-party dispute adds a wrinkle to the already complicated talks, but said the leaders will seek to resolve it.
The SADC troika currently comprises Zambia, which holds the chair, Mozambique and Namibia, with South Africa African President Jacob Zuma attending as SADC's mediator in Zimbabwe. South African foreign policy official Lindiwe Zulu told VOA that Mr. Zuma will not put a Zimbabwe election road map on the table as the document is not ready.
Instead, Zulu said, President Zuma will give a progress report touching on the crackdown in Zimbabwe among other issues. Mr. Tsvangirai has been lobbying regional chiefs to rein in Mr. Mugabe who he says has escalated tensions in the country.
Tsvangirai on Wednesday was concluding a diplomatic tour with stops in Malawi and Tanzania. Minister of State Jameson Timba, attached to the prime minister’s office, told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that in talks with Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika, Mr. Tsvangirai said unilateral actions by Mr. Mugabe are hurting power sharing.
Former Zimbabwean diplomat Clifford Mashiri said nothing much should be expected from SADC, which has in the past declined to take a firm position.
Human Rights Watch has urged SADC to rein in President Mugabe and his supporters who it says are harassing political opponents and pro-democracy civic activists.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch urged SADC to take action rather than standing by as the human rights situation in Zimbabwe deteriorates, telling the regional organization that it should publicly press Mr. Mugabe to end the crackdown of recent months.
Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Tiseke Kasambala told VOA reporter Patience Rusere that now is a good time to remind SADC of the Zimbabwe crisis in Zimbabwe with a constitutional referendum and new national elections on the horizon.