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SADC to meet on Zimbabwe crisis

MAPUTO, Nov 5 – Southern African regional leaders meet Thursday in the Mozambican capital Maputo for a summit aimed at reviving the troubled power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe, deadlocked for nearly three weeks.

The meeting will bring together the members of Zimbabwe’s stalled unity government — President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy premier Arthur Mutambara.

They will hold talks with leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia.

"We’re here to continue to help the Zimbabweans in their difficult journey," said Tomaz Salomao, secretary general of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the regional bloc that brokered Zimbabwe’s unity deal.

"One thing I can guarantee is that there is a commitment from all the Zimbabwean parties to make the political agreement work, to make the unity government work, given the positive results it’s achieved in its nine months of existence."

Long-time rivals Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed to form a unity government in February in the wake of deadly violence that followed disputed elections last year.

The pact helped arrest Zimbabwe’s economic free-fall and created an opening to repair its international ties amid Western calls for greater signs of reform from Mugabe, the country’s ruler since 1980.

But the agreement has been plagued by disputes over the appointment of provincial governors and Mugabe’s unilateral re-appointment of central bank chief Gideon Gono and attorney general Johannes Tomana.

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Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) also claims its lawmakers have been targeted for government persecution.

Tsvangirai’s decision to suspend ties on October 16 was sparked by the renewed detention of MDC treasurer Roy Bennett on terrorism charges.

Armed police raided Bennett’s house last month claiming they were searching for weapons. But the MDC accused Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and security forces opposed to the unity government of staging the raid for political reasons.

After cutting ties with the "dishonest and unreliable" Mugabe camp, Tsvangirai embarked on a regional tour, appealing to southern African leaders to intervene in the stand-off.

Thursday’s summit was organised by regional bloc SADC’s security and defence troika, which currently comprises Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia and is chaired by Mozambican President Armando Guebuza.

Leaders from the troika countries, current SADC chair the Democratic Republic of Congo and regional powerbroker South Africa will hear a report from a fact-finding mission that visited Zimbabwe last week, said Salomao.

He said the summit will also address the political situations in Lesotho and Madagascar, both of which have been plagued by instability in recent months.


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