A high-level team of South African officials in Zimbabwe to review progress in talks among the partners in Harare's troubled unity government met Monday with President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to push for resolution of outstanding issues before a Dec. 5 deadline.
The deadline was set by the Southern African Development Community troika on Politics, defense and security which met in Maputo, Mozambique, on Nov. 5 to resolve a crisis that jeopardized the survival of the unity government.
The team of advisers to South African President Jacob Zuma was also to meet with negotiators for Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change before reporting to Mr. Zuma.
Negotiators reached by VOA declined to comment on meeting with Mr. Mugabe and the other unity government principals.
Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that Mr. Tsvangirai told the team he wanted to see all outstanding issues resolved before the deadline approaching on Saturday.
A government source said the negotiators have made some progress, but were not close to agreeing on all issues.
Others said the negotiators have for the moment set aside the highly charged dispute as to the tenure of the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Gideon Gono, and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, both Mugabe stalwarts, intending to take them up again when other less politically charged issues more amenable to settlement have been disposed of.
Despite Pretoria's push for agreement, ZANU-PF politburo member Absolom Sikhosana told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungmili Nkomo that his party won’t make any concessions until Western sanctions are removed.
Political analyst Mandlenkosi Gatsheni said Mr. Zuma’s facilitation team should pressure both ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations to compromise.
Elsewhere, Tsvangirai spokesman Maridadi took exception to an article in the state-run, pro-ZANU-PF Herald newspaper whose headline said the prime minister made a “U-turn” on Western sanctions. Maridadi said Mr. Tsvangirai did not speak of sanctions but of “restrictive measures” at a Sunday rally in Harare, saying Mr. Tsvangirai has not changed his position.
Maridadi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Brenda Moyo that such restrictive measures can only be removed if the unity government reaches certain benchmarks.
The United States and European Union have indicated that they will not consider lifting their travel and financial sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and other top ZANU-PF officials and individuals seen as key supporters until the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing is fully implemented.