South Africa is expected to send a high powered delegation to Harare, Zimbabwe, on Friday in a bit to inject urgency into talks among partners in the troubled power-sharing government on resolving longstanding contentious issues.
Talks among ZANU-PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change formations opened on Monday, well after a deadline of 15 days following a November 5 meeting in Mozambique of the Southern African Development Community’s troika or committee on politics, defense and security.
Informed sources said talks were still held up by bickering and a bloated agenda.
The sources said ZANU-PF, supported by the MDC formation of Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, wanted talks to address the issue of so-called pirate radio stations broadcasting to the country from outside its borders, such as Washington-based Studio 7 from the Voice of America and London based Short-Wave Radio Africa, urging Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to halt their broadcasts.
The MDC has stated that it is not in a position to control broadcasts from outside Zimbabwe.
Sources in Pretoria said the South African team to be sent to Harare by President Jacob Zuma, a key facilitator of the talks, includes trusted lieutenants who are “as tough as nails."
The team is headed by Charles Nqacula, a political adviser to Mr. Zuma and a former defense minister. It also includes Mac Maharaj, a former minister of transport and hero of South Africa's anti-Apartheid struggle, and presidential foreign policy adviser Lindiwe Zulu, a former ambassador.
Pretoria sources say the appointments signal the end of former South African President Thabo Mbeki's mediation efforts in Harare. Though Mr. Mbeki was instrumental in bringing about the September 2008 Global Political Agreement underpinning power-sharing in Harare, he was often criticized for his "quiet diplomacy" approach to President Robert Mugabe, seen as impervious to such persuasion even from peers.
Zuma spokesman Vincent Magwenya told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the team will help the South African president fulfill his SADC mandate to help the Harare power-sharing partners achieve a lasting accord.
London based political analyst Msekiwa Makwanya said Mr. Zuma’s robust approach is likely to yield better results in Harare than Mr. Mbeki's low-key style which some saw as too deferential to Mr. Mugabe as a senior regional leader.
Mr. Mbeki stepped down as South African president following a revolt in the ruling African National Congress led by partisans of Mr. Zuma who accused Mr. Mbeki of pushing corruption charges against Mr. Zuma, who was also perceived as a more populist leader than his predecessor.