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South Africa's Zuma Due in Zimbabwe to Mediate Unity Government Disputes

South African President Jacob Zuma, who remains chairman of the Southern African Development Community until a SADC summit in September, is expected in Harare late this month to try to resolve the simmering disputes within the unity government.

Sources in the government and in the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe say Mr. Mugabe on Wednesday called for an urgent meeting with his fellow principals, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, to discuss the agenda of the meeting with Mr. Zuma which has tentatively been set for August 27.

But Zuma spokesman Vincent Mangwenya professed ignorance about the meeting saying the details will be released in due course.

Not only is Mr. Zuma the SADC chairman, but his predecessors in Pretoria – Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, now his deputy president- were instrumental in bringing about the formation six months ago of the so-called inclusive government in Harare.

Mr Tsvangirai sought Mr. Zuma's help early this month in unblocking the political logjam in Harare over issues such as the leadership of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Office of the Attorney General. Following that meeting with Mr. Tsvangirai, Mr. Zuma reached out to President Mugabe and Mutambara to bring them into the process.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s formation of the Movement for Democratic Change - Mutambara is the head of a smaller MDC grouping - is also up in arms about the number of its lawmakers who face criminal charges or or in some cases have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms longer than six months, potentially costing them their seats in parliament.

The MDC accuses ZANU-PF of manipulating the judicial system to dilute the majority that the former opposition party secured in the general election held in March 2008.

The meeting between Mr. Zuma and the three Harare principals could provide an indication as to how firmly the South African leader will tread on Zimbabwe.

But London based international affairs expert Innocent Sithole told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it is early days to reach any conclusions.

Lutah Shaba, executive director of the Women’s Trust, told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Mr. Zuma must take a firm line with Mr. Mugabe if he is to make progress in the talks.

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