, HARARE, Dec 1 – A new team of South African mediators have held their first talks with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in a fresh bid to ease tensions within the strained unity government, state media reported on Tuesday.
"President Robert Mugabe yesterday met the visiting South African mediation team," the state owned Herald said.
The mediators – including South African President Jacob Zuma\\\’s foreign policy adviser Lindiwe Zulu – met with Mugabe at his State House offices, the paper said.
Zuma named the new team last week to take over the regional mediation role previously held by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who brokered the power-sharing deal signed last year that created the unity government.
Mbeki, however, had faced widespread criticism over his "quiet diplomacy" which critics said was too soft on 85-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled since independence in 1980.
The team also met with negotiators from Mugabe\\\’s ZANU-PF party as well as rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai\\\’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the Herald said.
The unity government created in February has been plagued by a raft of disputes that led Tsvangirai to boycott cabinet for three weeks in October.
Regional leaders in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ended the standoff at a special summit in Mozambique, tasking Zuma with helping the parties resolve their differences.
Among the issues contested by the rival parties are the appointment of the central bank governor and the attorney general, as well as the naming of provincial governors and removal of a Western travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his inner circle.