Zuma ups pressure on Mugabe

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South African President Jacob Zuma is visiting Botswana and Namibia starting today where he is expected to ratchet regional pressure on President Robert Mugabe to implement reforms before fresh elections.

Zuma, who is scheduled to visit Zimbabwe for crunch talks with the three principals in the inclusive government President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara soon, will be in Botswana today and in Namibia tomorrow.

He will hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts Ian Khama (Botswana) and Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia), where he is also expected to raise the issue of Zimbabwes problems.

In a statement, Clayson Monyela, the spokesperson for South Africas Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said Zuma would use the visits to hold bilateral consultations with the Presidents of Botswana and Namibia on a variety of multilateral issues.

Zumas visit to the two countries comes at a time when Mugabe is trying to get Sadc leaders to back him in his push for polls this year, with or without a new constitution. Mugabe has also been decampaigning Zuma in a bid to remove him from his facilitation role.

The South African president is the Sadc-appointed facilitator to the Zimbabwean crisis. Zumas international relations adviser and spokesperson of the facilitation team Lindiwe Zulu said although Zimbabwe was not the reason her boss was visiting the two countries, the issue might come up for discussion.

When it happens, it will happen because its up to them, she told NewsDay.

But I know for a fact that President Zumas visit has nothing to do with that.

Zulu said Zuma would not rest until he successfully executes his facilitation role in Zimbabwe as per the mandate given to him by Sadc and the African Union.

The bottom line remains that he wants the implementation of the GPA and the creation of an environment which will be conducive for free and fair elections, she said.

Last week, Mugabe threatened to reject Zuma as a facilitator if he insists on reforms, some of which Zanu PF says are being pushed by agents of regime change.