A team of South African facilitators working on behalf of President Jacob Zuma to end a lengthy deadlock in Zimbabwe's troubled power-sharing government left Harare on Thursday after failing to get a comprehensive report from inclusive government negotiators, and are expected to pick up efforts there next week.
The three-member facilitation team received only an oral report from negotiators for the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change, who missed the March 31 reporting deadline set last month in talks mediated by Mr. Zuma. He represents the Southern African Development Community which is a guarantor of the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing along with the African Union.
Sources close to the discussions said Mr. Mugabe, encouraged by top security officials, has reneged on an understanding with President Zuma that Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono or Attorney General Johannes Tomana would be replaced. Both men were appointed (in Gono's case re-appointed) to their posts in late 2008 without consultation with the MDC.
Mr. Mugabe is said to have declared that neither man is going anywhere until Western sanctions are lifted.
But negotiators noted progress on the issues of electoral and national security reform, a land audit following the 10-year land reform initiative and cabinet rules, and are optimistic they can reach a deal on appointing former white commercial farmer Roy Bennett to a post other than deputy agriculture minister.
Bennett, treasurer of the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, was named to the ministerial post in early 2009 when the government was formed, but Mr. Mugabe has refused to swear him in until charges he conspired to overthrow Mr. Mugabe's previous government have been disposed of.
Negotiators were expected to meet on Friday, but were saying privately that deadlines are unworkable in view of the difficulty of the issues on the table.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator for ZANU-PF, told the state-controlled, ZANU-PF leaning Herald newspaper that he and his fellow negotiators are to meet on Friday to complete a report that will be presented to their principals on Tuesday.
But MDC negotiators said the report is unlikely to be completed on Friday and they hope to wrap it up after the Easter holiday. The South African facilitators told VOA they are comfortable with this timetable.
But Mr. Zuma has ordered his facilitators to directly engage with and push the negotiators. If that doesn’t work, he will probably set a further round of talks with resident Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
South African facilitator Lindiwe Zulu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the team hopes to engage the negotiators to try and reach a compromise on the outstanding power-sharing issues.
London based political analyst Msekiwa Makwanya acknowledged there has been some progress - but said it is hard work extracting concessions from ZANU-PF which is used to having its own way.