Zuma off to Zim

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iol pic sa jacob zuma23 REUTERS President Jacob Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma will meet Zimbabwean leaders on Wednesday to press for political reforms and new elections under a recently finished draft constitution, his spokesman said.

Zuma, the chief mediator on Zimbabwe's political crisis for the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc, will hold talks with leaders of the country's three main parties in Harare, spokesman Mac Maharaj told AFP Monday.

“It's ongoing work and we are hoping the visit will help Zimbabweans to resolve their problems and hold elections under a new constitution,” said Maharaj.

Since February 2009, Zimbabwe has been ruled by a power-sharing government formed by President Robert Mugabe and his chief rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, after violent and inconclusive presidential elections unleashed a political and economic melt-down.

Representatives of the rival parties - Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and another MDC faction - last month finalised a draft constitution meant to pave the way for new elections.

Drafters hope to put it to a referendum this year.

But ZANU-PF has indicated it is unhappy with some provisions and wishes to have them overhauled.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a visit to South Africa last week, urged regional leaders to push for the constitution to be speedily adopted.

The new draft constitution would rein in presidential powers while bolstering those of parliament. It would also set down a presidential term limit of 10 years and strip away the president's immunity from prosecution after leaving office.

Mugabe's 32-year rule has been peppered with accusations of widespread rights abuses, and such a provision could see him face prosecution.

SADC holds its annual summit on Friday and Saturday in Mozambique. - AFP

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