South African President Jacob Zuma has taken up the latest escalation of tensions in the Zimbabwean national unity government with a Southern African Development Community summit set to open in Johannesburg within 48 hours, a senior aide said Thursday.
President Robert Mugabe hopes to use the summit to recover from diplomatic setbacks on issues ranging from election timing to political violence to wide-ranging reform.
The Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is hoping SADC heads of state will ratify the findings and recommendations of a March meeting of the regional grouping's troika on politics, defense and security. Both ZANU-PF and the Tsvangirai MDC have been lobbying intensively in the run-up to the summit.
The death of a police officer in Harare late last month, blamed by ZANU-PF on MDC supporters, and the attempted gasoline bombing of Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s home, amid a general crackdown on MDC supporters, have all boosted tensions.
Zuma foreign policy adviser Lindiwe Zulu told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that Pretoria is aware of those developments, but she called on the power-sharing parties in Harare to make a greater effort tamp down political violence using existing mechanisms to.
Elsewhere, Zimbabwean civil society organizations in South Africa urged SADC to come down firmly in favor of a road map to the next elections in Zimbabwe with provisions to punish those who block implementation, correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported.
The Tsvangirai MDC meanwhile said a party official was abducted on Wednesday in the Chikomba district of Mashonaland East province, allegedly after inflammatory remarks to a ZANU-PF rally by Information Minister Webster Shamu. Local MDC officials said the abduction was in response to the official's raising of an MDC flag at his house.
Mashonaland East MDC officials said Timothy Mugari, a ward chairman, was abducted following a ZANU-PF rally held on Tuesday at the Ringa Business Center, VOA Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported from Mashonaland East.