Zbwe rivals under pressure in Zuma talks

HARARE: Zimbabwe’s rival leaders faced fresh pressure today to mend their differences and push toward new elections, as South African President Jacob Zuma led talks on the fragile unity government.

Zimbabwe’s ageing President Robert Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, reluctantly formed a unity government one year ago with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader.

The power-sharing pact has curbed deadly political violence that erupted around disputed 2008

presidential elections, while halting Zimbabwe’s decade-long economic collapse.

But they remain sharply divided on a slate of key appointments, western sanctions on Mugabe’s inner circle, and the treason trial of a top Tsvangirai ally.

Amid the feuding, work has stalled on drafting a new constitution, which is required under the power-sharing pact to pave the way to fresh elections envisioned by February 2011.

Zuma’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya told AFP that one-on-one talks with Mugabe and Tsvangirai yesterday were “quite encouraging, in the sense that President Zuma got an impression that parties were as keen as we are to move things forward.”

“There was commitment all round to work harder in finding a lasting solution,” Magwenya said.

Zuma, the regional

mediator on Zimbabwe, is now set to hold round

table talks with the rival leaders today in a bid to pressure them to resolve their differences.

The South African leader yesterday also met attorney general Johannes Tomana and central bank governor Gideon Gono, whose appointments are contested by Tsvangirai.

Zuma also met Roy Bennett, the treasurer of Tsvangirai’s party who is on trial for treason over a plot against Mugabe that was already dismissed by the courts in an earlier case.

“The idea behind those meetings, is that President Zuma’s intention was to meet a wide range of key role players to create common understanding on how to take matters forward,” Magwenya said.