South African President Thabo Mbeki stepped up pressure on the principals in Zimbabwe's power-sharing negotiations Friday by expanding his mediation to include other leaders of the Southern African Development Community on the margins of a SADC summit, adding the spur that the summit itself would take up the matter if a deal failed to materialize.
Talks resumed in Johannesburg on the summit sidelines late Friday as Mr. Mbeki received the direct support of SADC's troika on politics in his effort to bring President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai together on the terms for a unity government.
Failing agreement, Mr. Mbeki was to hand matters over to the summit
All three members of the troika were expected to be present at the talks: Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who is currently chairman of the African Union, Prime Minister Themba Dhlamini of Swaziland and Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.
Lead negotiator Patrick Chinamasa of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party was quoted Friday in the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying the three principals – Mr. Mugabe, Tsvangirai and rival opposition leader Arthur Mutambara – would be flanked by two negotiators apiece.
ZANU-PF sources said the longtime ruling party would push SADC to pressure Tsvangirai to sign a deal, arguing that the country has been for too long without parliament or cabinet.
ZANU-PF was also threatening that Mr. Mugabe would unilaterally name a new cabinet, which according to the opposition would signal the collapse of the talks.
Political analyst Hermann Hanekom told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the chances of a rapid resolution looked slim.For perspective on Mr. Mbeki's bid to reach a power-sharing agreement, reporter Ntungamili Nkomo turned to National Constitutional Assembly Vice Chairman George Mkhwanazi and Nicole Fritz of the Pretoria-based Southern African Litigation Center.
Both said pressure is required, but Mkhwanazi cautioned that any agreement that does not reflect the interests and the will of the people will be unacceptable.