AS the inclusive government comes to an end, questions are raging over South African President Jacob Zuma’s mediation efforts. REPORT BY NQABA MATSHAZI
Zuma has been credited with being harder on President Robert Mugabe than his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, but the jury is still out on the outcome of his mediation process.
When Zuma took over, the bone of contention were the so-called outstanding issues, which despite falling off the radar, are still yet to be addressed.
Others, however, say Zuma has a fight on his hands, as he plots his political survival at the African National Congress (ANC)’s conference that kicks off tomorrow.
This year has probably been annus horribilis for the South African president and he has had to pay more attention to problems at home, with the problems in Zimbabwe taking a back seat.
“He has been distracted, as he concentrates on his political survival,” contends Effie Ncube, a political analyst.
“It is normal that he prioritises problems at home before addressing those of his neighbour.”
Zuma faces a challenge for the ANC leadership from his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, while the Marikana shooting brought unprecedented international attention on South Africa.
“It will be naïve to think he will concentrate on Zimbabwe when there is an election in South Africa,” Ncube continued. “External mediation is subject to the changes internally. The ANC takes priority.”
Following the Lusaka summit earlier this year, Zuma promised that he would have a more hands-on approach on the Zimbabwean mediation process, but so far this has come to nought.
Parties to the inclusive government continue wrangling over the constitution and reforms that Zuma has prescribed, as the roadmap to indisputable elections.
On the other hand, MDC-T secretary general, Tendai Biti is hopeful that Zuma will win the ANC contest and continue with his mediation as he feels that he is making headway.
While Zanu PF feels aggrieved at Zuma’s mediation team and process, the South African president has not been hands-on as compared to Mbeki’s mediation team, which yielded the GPA.
Political analyst and university lecturer Lawton Hikwa, however, feels that the Zimbabwean mediation process has not taken a backseat, as Zuma continued sending his facilitation team.
“I doubt Zimbabwe has taken a backseat, Zuma is quite apprised about what is happening. He has been sending the facilitation team regularly,” he said.
Hikwa gave an example of the Tanzania summit, which Zuma addressed on the situation in Zimbabwe, to show that the South African president was following events north of the Limpopo closely.
He said the Zuma process was markedly different from the Mbeki one, as the latter had more to do.
“The Mbeki process was the inception of the mediation, he had more to do, that is why he was more visible,” he said.
‘Mugabe, zuma are revolutionaries’ There are reports that Mugabe would love to see the back of Zuma, as he feels the negotiation process is skewed against him, triggering rumours of a tiff between the two leaders.
However, Zuma has dispelled reports about bad blood between him and the Zimbabwean president, saying the two were revolutionaries, with mutual respect for each other.