SOUTH Africa’s President Jacob Zuma was today expected to head north to help feuding members of Zimbabwe’s coalition government resolve their differences.
At the time of writing, Zuma was expected to meet President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and other key members of the government.
Almost a year after the signing of the agreement that paved way for the coalition government Mugabe and Tsvangirai are still haggling over the appointment of key staff.
Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of stubbornly refusing to implement the full agreement.
But Mugabe and ZANU PF say they have fulfilled their side of the bargain much to the chagrin of Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
Tsvangirai’s party also alleges that Mugabe has continued to arrest and harass government ministers and party activists on trumped up charges.
They also say Mugabe has refused to swear in provincial governors and Roy Bennett to his deputy ministerial post.
Tsvangirai has also accused Mugabe of making unilateral appointments for the governorship of the central bank as well as for the position of attorney general.
The MDC has over the past six months demanded that these outstanding issues be resolved.
But Mugabe and ZANU PF have defiantly ignored these demands.
In fact, Mugabe and his party have been eager to portray Tsvangirai and his MDC party as junior partners in the coalition government.
This is why we have seen the coalition government wobble from one crisis to another.
On the positive side, the new coalition government managed to arrest rampant inflation. The hospitals have opened their doors again. Students and teachers are back in the classrooms.
We are confident that Zuma fully understands the issues that are at stake.
We therefore want to see Zuma press Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party to keep their side of the bargain.
Zuma must stress to Mugabe and Tsvangirai that there is no other alternative to the power-sharing agreement.
South Africa and the southern African region have in the past shielded Mugabe from censure. This was particularly the case under former president Thabo Mbeki.
The power-sharing agreement is not in danger of crumbling.
But Zuma must tell Mugabe and his henchmen that the region’s patience is wearing thin.
The region wants to see real progress in Zimbabwe.
The region wants to see a return to the rule of law.
We want to see respect for human and property rights. The region also wants to see perpetrators of rights abuses in Zimbabwe prosecuted.
The South African president must tell Mugabe and his henchmen that it is no longer business as usual.
He needs to stress to the Zimbabwean leader that the days when he was left to ride roughshod over the rights of his people are long gone.
The region needs to see a fresh approach to the problems of Zimbabwe.