/ 8 September 2009

Zuma: Zim making ‘significant progress’

Zimbabwe has made significant progress towards ending its political crisis as its once feuding leaders learn to bury their differences, South African President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.

Speaking in Kinshasa at a Southern African Development Community summit, Zuma also said Southern Africa had to remain on hand to help Zimbabwe push on after the establishment of a unity government in Harare.

”Significant progress has been made under the auspices of the inclusive government,” said Zuma, who is standing down as head of SADC after South Africa’s 12-month stint in the chair.

”We are all encouraged by how the three parties put their differences aside.”

Zimbabwe was plunged into political crisis last March after veteran leader Robert Mugabe was beaten in a presidential election long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai subsequently pulled out of a run-off election after scores of his supporters were killed but he eventually agreed to join a unity government in February this year as prime minister, along with another opposition faction.

”These achievements signalled to the people of Zimbabwe, the region and the world, that the Zimbabwean political leadership was ready to collectively tackle the political and the socioeconomic challenges facing that country,” added Zuma.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, who succeeds Zuma as SADC chairperson, told fellow leaders that he wanted ”to encourage the continuation of efforts” to resolve differences between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.

Both Tsvangirai and Mugabe were present at the summit.

An estimated 100 MDC supporters were murdered around the time of the elections, while inflation hit 500-billion percent.

Tensions between Harare and SADC have been apparent since last Thursday, when Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa shrugged off a SADC land tribunal ruling.

The ruling said Harare could not evict 78 farmers from their properties, a move meant to ward off future land grabs. – AFP, Sapa-DPA