Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was on Tuesday forced to cut short his week-long visit to China so that he could attend the extraordinary summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in Angola that starts on Friday.
Tsvangirai has been invited to a meeting of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security that will discuss regional hotspots, including Zimbabwe, on the sidelines of the heads of state and government meeting.
The Sadc leaders in the main meeting would be discussing the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, which seeks to enhance economic co—operation between member states.
The three parties in Zimbabwe’s troubled inclusive government — Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC — have been invited to the troika meeting.
In the past fortnight, President Robert Mugabe has been on a diplomatic offensive, sending envoys to meet regional leaders to sell his plan for an early election.
The invitation to the other parties in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) is expected to upset Mugabe’s plans as Zanu PF officials believed the PM had not been invited to the extraordinary summit.
Sadc leaders would also assess the viability of general elections in Zimbabwe this year, which the 88-year-old leader has been desperately pushing for.
Mozambique, Angola and Namibia make up the troika, which last year read the riot act to Mugabe and Zanu PF over political violence.
Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday said the MDC-T leader had been expected to fly straight to Luanda, Angola, last night for the meeting, cutting his first visit to Beijing by two days.
He was expected back in Harare on Friday, according to his itinerary in China.
“The Prime Minister had to cut short his visit to China to attend the Sadc summit,” Tamborinyoka said.
“He will tonight leave for Luanda after the invitation from Sadc to attend the extraordinary summit.”
State media had claimed Tsvangirai was frantically trying to gatecrash into a meeting meant for heads of state.
“Any reports that he will gatecrash are malicious,” Tamborinyoka said.
“The only gatecrash we know is that of people who lost elections in 2008 but are now part of government.
The PM has never gatecrashed anywhere and he will be in Luanda at the invitation of Sadc where the political situation in Zimbabwe will be discussed,” he said, adding the invitation had been extended by Sadc executive secretary Tomas Salomao.
Salamao on Sunday told NewsDay that although Zimbabwe was not officially on the agenda of the main summit, political developments in the country could still be discussed.
Sources said Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara would meet Sadc facilitator and South African President Jacob Zuma separately to discuss the implementation of the GPA.
MDC national spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube said the troika meeting would discuss Zimbabwe’s proposed general elections.
“The heads of state meeting is now going to be preceded by a meeting of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security,” Dube said.
“This was not the initial plan, but it has been necessitated by the fact that our colleagues in Zanu PF surreptitiously lobbied Sadc heads of state to call for Zimbabwe to hold elections this year with or without implementing that which has been agreed.
“Our party protested to Sadc, who have called for the meeting of the troika in order to hear what the MDC and MDC-T have to say about the Zanu PF call for elections.”
Both MDC formations have insisted elections should be held after full implementation of the agreed election roadmap — including adoption of a new constitution and several other electoral reforms.
Tsvangirai had been scheduled to meet senior Chinese government officials, and speak to groups of Chinese business leaders, including executives of SinoHydro, China Machinery Engineering Corporation and Sinosure.
On Monday, the Premier addressed the Sino-African Trade in Services and Investment Forum, in Beijing.
Zuma’s facilitation team on Monday met negotiators from the three parties to assess progress in the implementation of the GPA.
Sources said the facilitators expressed concern over Zanu PF’s push for early polls before implementation of the agreed election roadmap.