The Southern African Development Community has taken steps to bolster South African efforts to mediate a solution to the political impasse in Zimbabwe with an additional team comprising electoral and conflict resolution experts, diplomatic sources said Thursday.
The latest move by SADC follows a recent mini-summit in Livingstone, Zambia, at which key regional leaders including South African President Jacob Zuma, called for an end to mounting political violence, official intimidation and state prosecutions. The communiqué was seen as a stinging rebuke to President Robert Mugabe, whose ZANU-PF party, while in a power-sharing government with the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change, has been cracking down on its partners in government.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the MDC formation most often targeted by the crackdown, and many others have long urged SADC to take a more decisive role in the perennial crisis in Harare. In recent months, clearly galvanized by the upheaval across North Africa and elsewhere, SADC seems to have taken such admonitions to heart.
Members of the SADC troika on politics, defense and security agreed then that besides assisting South African facilitators working under President Jacob Zuma, SADC's official mediator in Harare, SADC will help Zimbabwe's Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee oversee compliance with the 2008 Global Political Agreement.
Sources said the SADC troika comprising Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa will develop terms of reference for the expanded mediation and facilitation team, which is to present a progress report to a SADC summit on Zimbabwe in Namibia on May 20.
The sources said officials in Harare initially rejected the additions to the mediation team. President Mugabe and ZANU-PF hardliners have been pushing for elections to be held this year, but SADC has made clear it wants to see reforms before any ballot.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the team has been assembled and modalities of operation are being put in place.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga said SADC, which has long been accused of being soft on Mr. Mugabe, is now showing that it has teeth.