South African President Jacob Zuma concluded his latest round of mediation in the troubled power-sharing Zimbabwean government on Thursday and announced a "package of measures" agreed among the governing parties to reduce tensions in the arrangement.
Some observers questioned whether the intervention by Mr. Zuma added up to a durable breakthrough, but the discusxions over which he presided for two days seemed to have defused tensions among the Harare unity government partners for the moment.
VOA Studio 7 Harare correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported that Mr. Zuma said he had held "fruitful discussions" with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara. They were the three signatories of the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power-sharing and whose full implementation has been at the root of much of the wrangling in Harare over the past year.
Mr. Zuma did not specify the measures agreed among the three unity government partners.
But South African and Zimbabwean political sources said Mr. Zuma obtained an undertaking from them that they would quickly swear in provincial governors from the Movement for Democratic Change.
Also to be sworn, the sources said, is Roy Bennett, the treasurer of the Tsvangirai MDC formation, as deputy agriculture minister. He was designated to that post in February 2009 when the unity government was formed but Mr. Mugabe has refused to swear him in, saying that charges Bennett conspired to overthrow the government in 2006 - on which he is currently standing trial - had to be disposed of before he could take office.
VOA sources said Mr. Zuma prevailed upon President Mugabe to accept the departure of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono or Attorney General Johannes Tomana. They said Tomana seems most likely to be dropped as a concession to the Tsvangirai MDC, though ZANU-PF hardliners are likely to object.
Despite such talk of deal on Bennett's swearing-in, the former white commercial farmer told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that neither this question nor his ongoing trial came up in his conversation with Mr. Zuma late Wednesday. He said he spoke with Mr. Zuma simply as a senior MDC official.
Political analyst Joy Mabenge said Zuma might have made a breakthrough in Harare – but implementation of the measures will be the hard part.
Expectations were high before Mr. Zuma traveled to Harare, so VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to political observers on both sides of the border to to get their assessment of what he accomplished: Solly Mapaila, a member of the central committee of the South African Communist Party, and Rejoice Ngwenya a Harare political commentator and consultant.
Mapaila said he has no doubt Mr Zuma’s efforts will soon lead to a lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s chronic political problems. But Ngwenya said Mr. Zuma has failed to tackle the fundamental problem which is that Mr. Mugabe does not want to share power.