1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. Southern Africa
  4. Zimbabwe

Zuma the peacemaker?

Presidents Zuma and Mugabe at SADC Extrordinary Summit, South Africa 20 June 2009
(DFA South Africa)

South Africa's president Jacob Zuma, current chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), is scheduled to make his first state visit to Zimbabwe on 27 August 2009.

Zuma has made his foreign policy priorities clear since assuming the presidency in April, placing emphasis on the region and Africa. His visit to Zimbabwe comes soon after his first foreign tour, to oil-rich Angola, one of Zimbabwean President R obert Mugabe's closest allies.

Prior to becoming president, Zuma had publicly criticised Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, in stark contrast to the approach taken by his predecessor, President Thabo Mbeki, who was appointed by the SADC to resolve Zimbabwe's political impasse.

In September 2008 the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was eventually signed, paving the way for the formation of the unity government in February 2009.

After a recent meeting in South Africa with Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zuma said he would discuss with Mugabe the "very weighty issues" that have remained unresolved since the formation of the unity government.

Mugabe has embarked on a diplomatic offensive, attending relatively low-level meetings in southern African countries, including Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.

Differences between the MDC and ZANU-PF run so deep that the two parties cannot even agree on the purpose of Zuma's visit. Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, told local media: "President Jacob Zuma is coming here to officially open the agricultural show and not to resolve the MDC's issues."

On the other hand, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Gorden Moyo, said in a statement, "President Jacob Zuma will arrive on 27 August and will hold deliberations with the three principals [in the unity government]." The three principals are Mugabe's ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai's MDC, and an MDC breakaway party led by Arthur Mutambara, the Deputy Prime Minister.

MDC grievances

The MDC claims that ZANU-PF has consistently flouted the GPA because Mugabe unilaterally appointed Johannes Tomana as attorney-general, and Gideon Gono as Reserve Bank governor, without any prior consultation, as required by the GPA.

Mugabe has also not appointed provincial governors - most of whom will be MDC supporters, reflecting the 2008 poll results - and persistently refuses to swear in Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture minister. Bennett was commercial farmer whose land was expropriated during Mugabe's disastrous fast-track land reform programme, which began in 2000.

''ZANU-PF leaders as well as their families are still prohibited to visit Europe, United States of America, as indeed in respect of their children to go to school in these countries''

ZANU-PF grievances

ZANU-PF claims that the MDC is not doing enough to persuade Western countries to lift smart sanctions targeting senior members of ZANU-PF, and that ZANU-PF continues to be "vilified" by foreign radio stations.

"ZANU-PF leaders as well as their families are still prohibited to visit Europe, United States of America, as indeed in respect of their children to go to school in these countries," ZANU-PF said in a statement.

"This does not apply to any member of the MDC, who are free to roam the world, while the country, as well as those regarded as sympathetic to ZANU-PF, continue to be subjected to a regime of brutal illegal sanctions."

The ZANU-PF Politburo commented in a statement that it was in "baffled" by reports of outstanding issues relating to the power-sharing deal, while the MDC maintained that "The issue of sanctions is a matter between ZANU-PF and the governments which imposed them."


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

Help us be the transformation we’d like to see in the news industry

The current journalistic model is broken: Audiences are demanding that the hierarchical, elite-led system of news-gathering and presentation be dismantled in favour of a more inclusive and holistic model based on more equitable access to information and more nuanced and diverse narratives.

The business model is also broken, with many media going bankrupt during the pandemic – despite their information being more valuable than ever – because of a dependence on advertisers. 

Finally, exploitative and extractive practices have long been commonplace in media and other businesses.

We think there is a better way. We want to build something different.

Our new five-year strategy outlines how we will do so. It is an ambitious vision to become a transformative newsroom – and one that we need your support to achieve.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian by making a regular contribution to our work - and help us deliver on our new strategy.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.