Zuma meets Zim leaders

HARARE - President Jacob Zuma met his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday in an attempt to resolve a decade-long political crisis that helped drag Zimbabwe into economic ruin.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a unity government last year to end a stalemate over disputed elections, which has managed to stabilise the economy after 10 years of contraction.

But constant bickering within the fragile alliance over policy and the slow pace of reforms have held back progress.

Zuma, appointed to mediate in the crisis by regional grouping SADC, met separately with Mugabe and Tsvangirai at a hotel in central Harare, and was to hold a joint meeting later to discuss problems between the rival parties - Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change.

Asked how his meeting with Zuma had gone, Mugabe said briefly: "It went very well as usual."

Justice Minister and Zanu-PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said talks would continue after Zuma's visit, with negotiators set to meet again on March 26 and 29.

"The whole purpose of this meeting is to advise the facilitator of the progress that we have made so far. It will not be the end of the matter, we should meet as negotiators and conclude our negotiations which we'll do on those dates."

"We will conclude our discussions and spell out matters we have agreed on and those we disagree on."

The MDC boycotted cabinet meetings late last year because of the dispute over the implementation of the deal.

The party is unhappy about central bank governor Gideon Gono and attorney-general Johannes Tomana, both Mugabe loyalists, remaining on in their posts. - Reuters