Accessibility links

Breaking News

Exasperated S. African Mediation Team Now Expected in Harare Sunday

Pretoria sources told VOA that President Jacob Zuma has become exasperated by continued delays in Harare and wants the parties to meet a December 5 deadline set by regional leaders

A South African mediation team that was expected in Harare on Friday to give a push to talks on settling issues troubling the power-sharing Zimbabwean government will now arrive on Sunday, sources in Pretoria said Thursday.

They said negotiators for President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and a rival MDC formation led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara wanted more time to focus on the agenda of vexed questions including the swearing-in of provincial governors promised the MDC and the tenure of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, both Mugabe stalwarts.

But Pretoria sources told VOA that President Jacob Zuma has become exasperated by continued delays in Harare and wants the parties to meet a December 5 deadline for resolution of the so-called outstanding issues set by the Southern African Development Community in early November.

South African mediation team member Lindiwe Zulu, a foreign policy advisor to Mr. Zuma, confirmed the schedule change.

Despite the signals of impatience in Pretoria, negotiators for members of the tripartite government took a break Thursday so Finance Minister Tendai Biti, lead negotiator for the Tsvangirai MDC formation, could wrap up his 2010 budget.

The negotiations will pick up on Saturday.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Zuma’s no-nonsense approach is likely to produce results.

Elsewhere, a Pretoria judge ruled on Thursday that a bilateral investment protection agreement to be signed Friday by Pretoria and Harare must protect the property rights of South African farmers with land in Zimbabwe.

Judge Roelof du Plessis issued the ruling based on an eleventh-hour settlement between the South African government and the farmers and activists who filed the suit this week asking the court to bar the government from signing the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

The ruling additionally puts Pretoria on record as honoring a ruling by the Windhoek, Nambia, tribunal of the Southern African Development Community in favor of Zimbabwean and other farmers whose land was seized under Zimbabwe's land reform program. ZANU-PF officials in the Harare government have refused to comply with the SADC tribunal ruling and have repudiated the jurisdiction of the regional court.

Lawyer Willie Spies, representing AfriForum, one of the litigants against the government, issued a statement following the ruling that his client "welcomes this undertaking and the court order stating that South Africans seeking to register and enforce the SADC Tribunal finding would now, in addition, be armed with a formal undertaking of the South African government endorsed by the court."

The November 2008 tribunal decision said the Zimbabwean land reform program "constituted racial discrimination, an infringement of the right of access to courts, and an arbitrary taking without adequate compensation, each in breach of Zimbabwe's treaty obligations."

The vast majority of Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers, who once numbered more than 4,000, have been dispossessed of their land, often through violent invasions by liberation war veterans and other ZANU-PF militants. Many farms ended in the hands of ZANU-PF ministers and officials, including Mr. Mugabe, his wife and other family members.