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Zimbabwe Electoral Reforms, Schedule Key Items for SADC Summit in Luanda

Civil society organizations accustomed to intense lobbying on the sidelines of regional summits complained that Angolan authorities had denied entry to a number of activists, in one case confiscating their broadsides

President Robert Mugabe arrived Tuesday in Luanda, Angola for a Southern Africa Development Community summit officially opening Wednesday that will focus on the uneasy power-sharing arrangement in Zimbabwe as well as human rights and other issues regarding Malawi, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the larger formation of the power-sharing Movement for Democratic Change, was already in Luanda. His MDC wing and that led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube want SADC to endorse their call for reform of the Zimbabwean military and security establishment, which they say has repeatedly meddled in the country's elections and in 2008 was implicated in deadly political violence.

Also on the agenda in Luanda is the road map to Zimbabwe's next elections, drawn up by negotiators for the two MDC formations and the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe. ZANU-PF has been demanding that elections be held this year, while the MDC formations have been calling for broader and deeper reforms before a new ballot.

Most observers doubt that elections can be held in 2011, noting that the country has yet to revise its constitution and hold a national referendum on the document - one of the key tasks spelled out in the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing.

President Mugabe and other ZANU-PF officials insist no reform of the security sector is needed, defending the professionalism of service commanders and maintaining that the existing laws on the military and the police are more than adequate as they are.

But MDC officials like Jameson Timba, a minister of state in Mr. Tsvangirai's office, says reform has more to do with attitudes than with the law. Other MDC officials say hostile comments by senior officers aimed at Mr. Tsvangirai prove that reform is needed.

Reporter Violet Gonda reported on the controversy over security sector reform.

Civil society organizations accustomed to intense lobbying on the sidelines of regional summits complained that Angolan authorities had denied entry to a number of activists in recent days. In the most recent incident, authorities at the Luanda airport detained four Zimbabwean activists for five hours before admitting them while confiscating lobbying materials including reports alleging partisanship by the Zimbabwean military.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Information and Advocacy Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that with limited access to the summit venue, activists have turned to the Angolan media to convey their message.

Elsewhere, Reporters Without Borders said it will use the Luanda summit to call for reform of the Zimbabwean media. The group wants SADC to pressure Zimbabwe to end harassment of private media and reform-minded civic groups.

Reporters Without Borders Africa Desk Chief Ambroise Pierre told Tatenda Gumbo that media reform should be high on the SADC agenda as a key to free and fair elections.