JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Southern African leaders urged Zimbabwe’s political rivals on Monday to move faster on settling their differences to enable elections to be held.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) said President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and the rival Movement for Democratic Change should work harder to create an environment for free and fair elections, as provided for under a Global Political Agreement (GPA) they signed in 2008.
“(The) summit encouraged the parties ... to move faster in the implementation of the GPA and create a conducive environment to the holding of elections that will be free and fair,” the SADC said in a statement after a weekend summit in South Africa.
The SADC called on the troika working towards fuller implementation of the GPA in Zimbabwe — South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique — to appoint a team to enforce the power-sharing agreement and lead up to the elections.
It is doubtful if Mugabe, who is pushing for elections to be held this year despite objections from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, will adhere to SADC’s recommendations.
Mugabe, 87 and in power since 1980, was forced into a unity government with the MDC two years ago under the compromise agreement know as the GPA.
The coalition agreement was signed after the bitterly fought elections of 2008, which led to mass violence and pushed the resource-rich state into a deeper economic crisis.
The uneasy power-sharing government has brought a measure of economic stability to Zimbabwe which holds the world’s second-largest platinum reserves and also vast diamond reserves.
Tensions are rising as the unity government unravels and Mugabe pushes for early elections. He has said the coalition should end this year and elections be held as soon as possible.
Tsvangirai wants polls to be held next year, saying that constitutional and political reforms must come first.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has been accused of intimidating and arresting opposition supporters and cancelling their rallies.
Regional leaders — mediating in the crisis since 2008 — have been relatively soft on Mugabe and analysts are concerned that attempts by the veteran Zimbabwean leader to hasten elections could result in increasing political violence.