South African President Jacob Zuma was forced to abandon a regional summit in Mozambique Friday to hurry back home and address the shooting to death of 34 striking miners by police.
Zuma’s departure for the volatile mining town of Rustenburg put a damper on the much-anticipated discussion of the Zimbabwe crisis by the full summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from Friday through Saturday.
Sources said President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, the new chairman of the SADC organ on politics, or the troika, was to step in and lead discussions on Harare.
Veteran Zimbabwean leader President Robert Mugabe was also in Mozambique with his ruling partners - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his deputy Arthur Mutambara and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube.
The Zimbabwean delegation attended a troika meeting Thursday where Mr. Zuma - the regional mediator in Harare - tabled a report on the political developments in Zimbabwe.
Sources said Mutambara confronted the South African leader for snubbing him during his Harare visit Wednesday.
Mr. Zuma refused to meet Mutambara saying he did not represent any political party, and instead met with Ncube, who overthrew the deputy prime minister as leader of the MDC in 2010.
But Mutambara told VOA that Zuma should not be involved in the leadership dispute of the party.
Pretoria has been pushing Harare to embrace broad electoral and political reforms ahead of general elections widely expected next year.
The absence of Mr. Zuma at the weekend summit has some political analysts worried, including John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe who said the Zimbabwe issue won't be forcefully tackled.
Meanwhile, labor unions in South Africa and Zimbabwe have condemned the Marikana "massacre", the single deadliest crackdown since the end of the apartheid in 1994.
Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said the law enforcement agents used lethal force after they were confronted by a group of miners armed with an assortment of weapons, including a few firearms and spears.
The striking workers want Lonmin - the world’s third largest platinum producer - to increase their pay from about R5, 000 to R12, 500 a month.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation reported that the violence followed a "turf war" between rival unions, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said: "The wanton behavior by police will set a dangerous precedence in the region considering that South Africa is seen as a model democracy in Southern Africa."
Japhet Moyo, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions told VOA Studio 7's Ntungamili Nkomo the police and miners should have exercised restraint.
Labor bodies in South Africa, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa also deplored the incident.