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Southern African Leaders, Diplomats Step Up Efforts On Zimbabwe Crisis

The Southern African Development Community and the government of South Africa have stepped up diplomatic efforts in Zimbabwe to resolve its deepening post-election crisis amid charges by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change that at least 30 people have died in violence allegedly mounted by ruling party militants.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, chairman of SADC's so-called troika on Zimbabwe, recently dispatched Foreign Minister Joao Miranda along with Swaziland Foreign Minister Mathethe Dlamini and a Tanzanian diplomat on a round of shuttle diplomacy for meetings with President Robert Mugabe, Zambian President and SADC Chairman Levy Mwanawasa and South African President Thabo Mbeki.

The delegation met with Mr. Mbeki on Thursday in Pretoria.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had been expected to meet Mr. Dos Santos in Angola on Thursday, but Luanda put off the meeting and has yet to set a new date for it. SADC and Pretoria have also sent separate delegations to Zimbabwe to look into allegations of state-sponsored political violence against the opposition ahead of a presidential run-off election called by the Zimbabwe Electoral Authority.

The South Africans went to Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central Province, where ZANU-PF militants are said to have battered to death 11 opposition supporters this week.

SADC's diplomatic initiative has been hampered by the MDC's refusal to have further dealings with President Mbeki, who the Zimbabwean opposition says has failed to be an honest broker in the crisis. SADC designated Mr. Mbeki its Zimbabwe mediator in March 2007, following an earlier outbreak of political violence there.

SADC executive Salamao told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his delegation’s mission is to ensure that violence ceases and that the presidential run-off election - for which no date has been set - be held as soon as possible.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai, front-runner in the presidential first round, that SADC's initiative had not yet had any perceptible impact as political violence continues to mount.

MDC officials said the death toll among opposition members has reached 30.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...