Southern Africa leaders meet on Zimbabwe political crisis

15th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

Southern African leaders held a meeting Saturday to discuss Zimbabwe's political crisis after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai vowed last week to oppose a decision by President Robert Mugabe to hold elections by July 31.

"As a regional organisation we constantly strive to share our challenges, to coordinate our search for solutions and a synchronised implementation of our decisions," Mozambican President Armando Guebuza said at the opening of the summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The much-awaited vote in Zimbabwe aims to end the shaky power-sharing government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, formed four years as part of a plan to end political bloodshed.

Tsvangirai has said he would veto any election date that comes before democratic reforms are introduced to ensure that the vote is not a sham.

The reforms include ensuring that the electoral roll is updated with eligible voters as well as ensuring that the media can report independently without the fear of being charged for defaming the government.

The SADC meeting initially planned for Maputo last weekend was postponed after Mugabe said he was "unavailable" to attend.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma who heads the 15-nation regional group's mediation process is expected to deliver a progress report to the leaders.

Zuma's spokesman said in a statement that "consideration will be given to a roadmap to elections following the successful referendum held in February" -- referring to Zimbabwean voters' approval of a new constitution.

He said the summit was also expected to reflect on the latest developments in Madagascar.

The Indian 0cean island nation has been in limbo since current strongman Andry Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and ex-mayor of the capital Antananarivo, wrested power and defied international calls to step down.

The country had to postpone the polls until August 23 because their candidacies -- upheld by the national election commission -- derailed plans to hold the vote in July.

Current ruler Rajoelina, who seized power from then-president Marc Ravalomanana in 2009, Ravalomanana's wife Lalao who travelled from exile in South Africa to register her candidacy, and veteran leader Didier Ratsiraka are some of the leaders billed to contest the vote.

© 2013 AFP

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