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South African President Jacob Zuma Pushes for Early Poll

Published on Monday 18th January 2010 South African President Jacob Zuma Pushes for Early Poll

SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma is now pushing Zanu PF and the two MDC formations to expedite the resolution of outstanding issues in time for the 2011 elections, amid growing impatience among regional leaders and investors.

Zuma has been seized with the task of facilitating the resolution of issues that threaten the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which created the inclusive government.

Although nothing has been finalised on this proposal, Zuma's spokesperson Vincent Magwenya yesterday told The Standard that the South African leader wants elections next year.

Magwenya was speaking ahead of the resumption today of talks between the three governing parties on the outstanding issues on the implementation of the GPA.

"He (President Zuma) is looking forward to an election in 2011," Magwenya said. "That is not his proposal, but it is what the Zimbabweans agreed.

"The parties must work really hard to implement the GPA so that by the time of the elections in 2011, the situation is conducive."

In an interview with SAFM radio station in Johannesburg on Friday, Zuma said the parties in the coalition should be flexible enough to "move without resolving" some of the thorny issues around the key appointments of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana.

"Are these issues (Gono and Tomana) so fundamental that we cannot move without resolving them? Can we park them and proceed?" said Zuma.

"I'm sure the Zimbabweans have to open up and look at the issues from all angles," he said.

Magwenya said Zuma's proposal entailed evaluating the issues to see whether or not their delayed resolution would affect the holding of elections.

"Evaluation has to be made on how critical those issues are ... are those issues worth stalling the process (of holding the elections next year)? He is not saying those issues have to be ignored," he said.

"What the President is simply saying is that if we get to elections and there are still contentious issues that need to be resolved, those will be evaluated to see whether they will affect the process."

The talks are scheduled to resume today, with pressure mounting on the negotiators to reach an agreement and pave way for national reconstruction.

Magwenya said Zuma's facilitation team of Mac Maharaj, Lindiwe Zulu and Charles Nqakula will keep a close eye on the talks.

"In essence, Zuma is looking forward to a point where this process is concluded," he added.

"The facilitation team is going to continue to appraise President Zuma and President (of Mozambique, Armando) Guebuza.

"The President is saying let us implement those issues where there is agreement. Our facilitation is to create a conducive environment for the holding of elections."

But the MDC-T on Friday said there was no going back on their demand to have "all the issues resolved".

Addressing a press conference in Harare, party spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said they expected the process to resolve all issues currently on the table.

"I am the least qualified to comment on what President Zuma says, but we would want all issues resolved, as they are fundamental in our view," Chamisa said.

"It is our view that these negotiations will bring all these issues to finality so that we are able to move... If we fail to deal with all the outstanding issues, the only option is to seek the guidance of our guarantors (Sadc and the African Union)."

"The talks are simply about punctuating our signatures with action, our colleagues (Zanu PF) are trying to run away from their signatures," Chamisa said.

"We cannot continue to discuss these issues ad infinitum. All our issues are fundamental and we hope they are going to be addressed fully."

On the possibility of elections next year, Chamisa said "that is what the GPA says", but the elections could only go ahead if the GPA is fully implemented.

"Our view and hope is that free and fair elections will be held once there is a conducive environment."

The coalition partners are still not coming out clearly on when the next elections will be held with some quarters advocating for the unity government to serve a full five-year term.

The five years would expire in 2013.

But others want an election as soon as a new constitution is in place. At the earliest the new supreme law might be in place by early next year.

President Robert Mugabe has in recent months also hinted at an early election.

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