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African leaders to hold new summit on Zimbabwe

Southern African leaders meet this weekend to examine a political stalemate in Zimbabwe, an official said Thursday, amid warnings of rising violence and intimidation ahead of elections.

Leaders in the 15-country Southern African Development Community (SADC) are to meet in Johannesburg on Saturday, the South African foreign ministry said.

SADC’s security organ in March lashed out at President Robert Mugabe’s failure to make reforms paving the way for elections.

In an unusually harsh communique, it also denounced political violence and intimidation, echoing concerns raised by Mugabe’s rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

“There’s going to be an extraordinary summit of SADC on Saturday to focus on the issue of Zimbabwe,” foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela told reporters.

The summit is expected to set out a timeline for completing work on a new constitution which would lead to fresh elections, and to come down hard on violations of the pact that gave birth to the unity government.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change has already indicated that he will attend the talks. Mugabe rarely reveals his travel schedule in advance, but he routinely attends such meetings.

Zimbabwe was meant to feature in a SADC summit last month in Windhoek but South African President Jacob Zuma — the regional mediator for Harare — could not attend as his party was contesting local elections, Monyela said.

“So now it’s going to be discussed in Johannesburg on Saturday,” he said.