Exasperated by a perennial political crisis and escalating tensions in Zimbabwe, the Southern African Development Community has called on regional mediator President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to increase the visibility of his brokering efforts.
SADC sources said President Zuma’s team of facilitators will now be expected to visit Harare at least twice a month beginning in July.
The facilitators will be complemented by three delegates of the SADC troika on politics, defense and security drawn from South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique who will work with the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee to the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing is adhered to as a recent SADC summit urged.
The SADC leadership has set August as the deadline by which the three parties shall have completed a road map to Zimbabwe's next elections. SADC will meet in summit in Luanda, Angola, at that time. Sources said the three co-governing parties have started working separately on proposed timelines for the elections road map.
President Zuma’s international relations adviser Lindiwe Zulu said she and other Zuma facilitators will meet party negotiators early in July to finalize the road map.
Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, concurred and said a more prominent role for SADC facilitators and monitors could make a difference.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the August deadline for submitting a road map means holding a ballot this year, as President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF have been demanding, a viable proposition. But SADC leaders are wary of pressing ahead too fast and repeating the disputed 2008 election that led to the power-sharing solution.
The country must also hold a referendum later this year on a new constitution of which the formal drafting has yet to begin and is certain to involve much haggling.
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara also called on the power-sharing parties in Harare to stay focused and complete the election road map on time.
Former Zimbabwean diplomat Clifford Mashiri told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that SADC has abandoned the policy of appeasement in dealing with President Mugabe.
Elsewhere, a senior official of the Tsvangirai formation of the Movement for Democratic Change met in Harare on Friday with members of the diplomatic corps to brief them on the political situation and the implications of the recent SADC summit.
Minister of State Jameson Timba, international relations secretary for the MDC branch, pledged his party’s commitment to resolving Zimbabwe’s long-running crisis.
Timba told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that he also briefed the diplomats about what he described as an ongoing crackdown against MDC activists.
Mr. Tsvangirai, meanwhile, was touring companies in the Midlands towns of Kwekwe and Gweru where business people expressed their concerns including the indigenization plan being pushed by the ZANU-PF side of the government, and the government's failure to protect manufacturers from cheap imports, as correspondent Taurai Shava reported.
In Masvingo, war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda generated more controversy with a speech this week that appeared to be inciting political violence. Sibanda is alleged to have told a crowd of ZANU-PF supporters on Thursday in Masvingo that they will not be arrested if they kill MDC supporters, as correspondent Obert Pepukai reported.