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Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s efforts to fast-track his country to elections were thwarted at a regional summit in Luanda on Friday where leaders insisted that proper conditions for a free and fair poll must first be created.
Mugabe had reportedly sent envoys to regional governments in the run-up to the summit to urge them to back his plans to move more speedily to elections.
This would bypass some of the pre-conditions for elections spelt out in the Global Political Agreement which he and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed to in 2008 and which form the basis for a disputed roadmap to new polls.
According to some reports, Mugabe was angling for elections to be held very soon under the present constitution, which favours his Zanu-PF.
But this effort failed as the SADC Extraordinary Summit in Luanda stressed the need for President Jacob Zuma, as SADC’s mediator in Zimbabwe, to continue his efforts “towards the final realisation of the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement”. This included the finalisation of the constitution-making process and subjecting it to a popular referendum.
Lindiwe Zulu, Zuma’s chief negotiator in Zimbabwe, also stressed in an interview yesterday that the summit had urged the Zimbabwean parties in the country’s unity government to develop an implementation mechanism to ensure that all their agreements were actually implemented.
As part of this the summit had also urged the Zimbabwean parties “to set out timeframes for the full implementation of the roadmap to elections”, as the communiqué said.
Zulu said this decision was the result of complaints by some of the Zimbabwean parties that the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, set up to ensure the agreement was implemented, was reporting on things not being implemented “but nothing ever gets done about it”.
“And the summit leaders were also sending the message to the negotiations that we don’t want agreements without timelines,” she added.
She said the summit had reiterated its previous insistence that all Global Political Agreement agreements must be implemented before new elections could be held.
This included the adoption of a new constitution.
The negotiations for a new constitution were recently stalled by Zanu-PF hardliners rejecting several agreements reached by moderate Zanu-PF negotiators.
The Luanda summit also reiterated its support for Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the SADC candidate for the chairperson of the AU Commission, who is to be elected at the next AU summit in Malawi next month.
Zuma’s office added that the SADC leaders had reiterated that there was a need to strengthen the AU to deal with the many challenges and opportunities facing Africa.
Zulu said the SADC committee, which had been set up before to lobby support for Dlamini-Zuma, who was defeated in her first attempt at the job in January, had reported that support for her had since grown. But more needed to be done to secure her election against the incumbent, Gabon’s Jean Ping, who is expected to stand for a second term in Malawi.
The summit also mandated its mediator in Madagascar, Deputy International Relations and Co-operation Minister Marius Fransman, to urgently convene a meeting between the country’s de facto President Andry Rajoelina and the man he ousted in a 2009 coup, former president Marc Ravalomanana, to resolve the political crisis.
The summit leaders said the two rivals should agree on how to ensure full implementation of the negotiated roadmap towards “credible, free and fair elections”.
The roadmap endorsed by SADC and agreed by the Malagasy parties calls for Ravalomanana to be allowed to return to Madagascar from exile in SA, which Rajoelina has so far prevented him from doing.
But the roadmap also leaves Rajoelina a loophole because it underscores SADC’s respect for Madagascar’s judicial sovereignty.
And so far Rajoelina has exercised that sovereignty by threatening to arrest Ravalomanana if he returns to the country, for alleged complicity in the murder of anti-government protesters in 2009.