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Monday, August 31, 2009


Zuma confident on Zimbabwe future

President Robert Mugabe hosted a state banquet for Jacob Zuma
South African President Jacob Zuma has said the problems in Zimbabwe's unity government are not "insurmountable".

He has held talks with both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on his first official visit to Harare as president.

Mr Mugabe, looking in good health, admitted to "teething problems" in the power-sharing administration but said these were to be expected.

Mr Tsvangirai's MDC party accuses Mr Mugabe of acting in bad faith.

The long-time opposition Movement for Democratic Change says its activists continue to be harassed even after it joined the government in February.

It hopes Mr Zuma will put pressure on Mr Mugabe to rein in his hardline supporters, especially in the security forces, who it says are trying to derail the unity accord.

Mr Zuma is the current chair of the Southern African Development Community, the body which helped to broker the power-sharing deal.

"The remaining issues are not insurmountable and can be overcome. The most difficult path has already been travelled," Mr Zuma said at a state banquet hosted by President Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe said the "teething problems" have "not detracted us from our agreed common vision to establish peace, turn around the economy and work to deliver the services expected of us by the generality of our people".

Mr Zuma also held an hour-long meeting with Mr Tsvangirai and is expected to meet both Zimbabwean leaders again later on Friday.

He is also due to make a speech at the Harare Agricultural Show.

Mr Zuma's two-day visit came after renewed speculation about the health of Mr Mugabe, who is 85.

Zimbabwe officials have denied reports that Mr Mugabe is ill, labelling them the product of "sick and evil minds".

A spokesman for Mr Zuma's African National Congress party said he planned to be more outspoken about Zimbabwe's problems - a contrast to the "quiet diplomacy" of his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

"President Zuma will be more vocal in terms of what we see as deviant behaviour," Gwede Mantashe told reporters.

h Africa's President Jacob Zuma has told Zimbabwean leaders the problems facing their fractious unity government can be overcome.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai set up a coalition government in February to end a political and economic crisis, but have been feuding over implementing their agreement.

Zuma began a two-day visit to Zimbabwe on Thursday -- his first since becoming president in May -- aimed at keeping the power-sharing deal on track.

Recovery in once relatively prosperous Zimbabwe is important for South Africa given the millions of Zimbabweans driven to seek work in their much wealthier neighbour by a decade of economic decline and political crisis.

In a speech to a dinner hosted by Mugabe late on Thursday, Zuma said any outstanding disputes on the agreement brokered by his predecessor Thabo Mbeki could be resolved through mediation.

"The remaining issues are not insurmountable, and can be overcome. The most difficult path has already been travelled," Zuma said. He offered the help of the Southern African Development Community, which he currently chairs.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai's parties are wrangling over the appointment of top officials -- including the central bank governor and attorney-general -- over Western sanctions targeting Mugabe and over the pace of reform.

Zimbabwe says it needs $10 billion in foreign reconstruction aid, but has had little success in attracting it. Western countries want to see the government working effectively and implementing faster reform.

Although Zuma is expected to take a tougher approach to Zimbabwe than Mbeki, accused by critics of siding with Mugabe, political analysts believe he is unlikely to get the feuding parties to agree and will press them to keep talking.

"President Zuma is not coming as prosecutor or judge to the inclusive government, but will meet the principals to evaluate the progress of the agreement so far," Tsvangirai was quoted as saying by the state controlled Herald newspaper.

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