Mugabe, Zuma face off


South African President Jacob Zuma is expected in Harare in the next few days for make or break talks with President Robert Mugabe and other principals in the shaky inclusive government on the timing of elections.

Zuma is fresh from a whirlwind trip to Botswana, Namibia and Angola where he was reportedly mobilising regional support to tackle the sticky Zimbabwean problem.

Mugabe, who turned 88 last month, has intensified calls for polls this year with or without a new constitution, a move that was outrightly rejected by South Africa early this week.

The dispute between the ageing leaders Zanu PF party and Zumas facilitation team on fresh elections has degenerated into an ugly public spat setting the stage for a confrontation between the two leaders.

Zuma is also expected to consult the other principals Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara on the way forward.

Tsvangirais MDC-T national executive committee met yesterday and reiterated that while it was readying for polls anytime, it would not take part in a plebiscite called before the adoption of a new constitution.

Zumas advisor Lindiwe Zulu confirmed that her boss was preparing for the trip.

I dont have the exact date yet, but all I can confirm is that he has to come to Harare as soon as possible, she said.

Mugabe has threatened to reject Zuma as the Sadc appointed mediator in the power sharing talks accusing him of bias.

Relations between the two leaders soured last year when Zuma tabled a report at a special Sadc summit in Livingstone, Zambia, laying the blame on Zanu PF for the inclusive governments failure to implement urgent reforms.

In recent interviews to mark his birthday, Mugabe claimed he had confronted Zuma during Sadc meetings in Angola and Zambia last year threatening to have him removed as the mediator.

The fallout worsened this week when South African Foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told parliament in Cape Town that Zimbabwe will not be allowed to hold the polls before reforms.

Zanu PF reacted angrily to the statement with politburo member Jonathan Moyo telling online media that South Africa must stop treating Zimbabwe as one of its provinces.

But Zulu yesterday maintained that Zuma will not be drawn into a public slanging match with Mugabe.

The President will engage President Mugabe on an ideal platform not in public, Zulu said.

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