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Southern African Regional Grouping Seen Cooling Election Fever in Zimbabwe

Director General Ayanda Ntsaluba of the South African Foreign Ministry said President Jacob Zuma, SADC's mediator in Harare, will tell the summit Zimbabwe should extend power power-sharing, not rush into new elections

The Southern African Development Community troika or committee on politics, security and defense is likely to tackle the political crisis in Zimbabwe on Sunday ahead of the official opening of the SADC summit early next week in Windhoek, Namibia, regional diplomatic and political sources said Thursday.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will be in attendance at that time, the sources said.

Mr. Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change says it wants the regional body to resolve the wide range of issues troubling the power-sharing arrangement and produce a roadmap to new elections.

MDC sources said the party has lost confidence in the national unity government. Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has also signaled that it is ready to contest presidential and general elections next year.

But Director General Ayanda Ntsaluba of the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters Thursday that South African President Jacob Zuma, SADC mediator in Zimbabwe, will tell the summit that Zimbabwe should extend the power power-sharing arrangement rather than rushing into new elections.

"He will recognize that the task in Zimbabwe is not completed but the overwhelming picture is favorable," Ntsaluba said. He added that "there is a semblance of stability and Zimbabwe is on the correct path."

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA that SADC must not shy away from the issue of elections. He said Mr Tsvangirai will demand an election road map from the regional body.

But Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara said the move toward elections is premature, adding that the government has been functioning better of late with fewer serious disagreements even if not in full agreement.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network Director Rindai Chipfunde Vava said the country is simply not ready to hold new elections. She said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission tasked with running the elections is under-funded.

Some observers question whether SADC can break the logjam in the unity government and say only new elections can put the country on a firm path to full democracy and development.

For perspective on whether the Harare impasse lends itself to resolution by SADC, VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere turned to Promise Mkhwanazi, a former student leader now pursuing studies in foreign relations at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and law lecturer Alex Magaisa of the University of Kent in England.

Magaisa says it is unrealistic to expect SADC to resolve major differences in Harare: he said the regional grouping’s objective is simply to manage political tensions in Harare, where it sees the situation as relatively stable.