South African President Jacob Zuma and his Botswana counterpart, Ian Khama, have vowed to keep the spotlight on Zimbabwe to ensure that general elections tentatively expected to be called in July this year are peaceful.
In his state of the nation address in South Africa on Thursday, Mr. Zuma, who is also the Southern African Development Community (SADC) appointed mediator in Harare, said Pretoria will continue to support Africa's peace efforts on the continent, including mediation, peace keeping, and by providing material and financial assistance.
He added that “in this regard, we look forward to the conclusion of political dialogues in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.”
Mr. Khama was more pointed in his remarks in an interview with the Business Day newspaper.
He expressed reservations that Zimbabwe’s election could be peaceful. He said those responsible for the “brutality and intimidation” of the bloody 2008 election were not brought to justice and might be unleashed again.
Mr. Khama added that, "I think that they (Mr. Mugabe’s supporters) are still capable of trying to engage in intimidation, deploying the security services to bring that about, telling the people in the security services how they should vote.”
Mr. Khama said the potential for a return to 2008 was still there.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was forced to pull out of the presidential election run-off citing deadly political violence that clamed over 100 of his supporters.
The Botswana president, a longtime critic of President Mugabe, said he will urge fellow SADC leaders to send an election monitoring team well before the polls to give Zimbabweans a sense of security.
International relations expert Clifford Mashiri, a former Zimbabwe diplomat in Ethiopia, told VOA that the message from the two leaders is significant.