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Zuma to visit Zimbabwean leader

The South African president will press Mugabe more than did his

August 27, 2009|Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — President Jacob Zuma will be "more vocal" than his predecessor about bringing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's party to task for harassing rival politicians, a South African official said Wednesday.

Attacks by Mugabe's followers on activists of a rival party, which is now in a strained coalition in Zimbabwe, "are a hindrance to progress" in the impoverished country, said Gwede Mantashe, secretary- general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress.

Zuma is going to Zimbabwe today, his first visit to the neighboring country as president. Despite unconfirmed rumors that the 85-year-old Mugabe is ill, "everything's on track" for Zuma to meet the longtime Zimbabwean ruler, Zuma's spokesman Vincent Magwenya said Wednesday.

Magwenya said Zuma also plans to meet with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who is in the coalition with Mugabe.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party accuses Mugabe's ZANU-PF of stalling on reforms and continuing to attack and harass MDC activists since the coalition was formed in February.

ZANU-PF says its coalition partner should be pushing harder to get the international community to lift sanctions against Mugabe and his top aides.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who stepped down shortly before elections in April, advocated quiet diplomacy. Mbeki said pushing Mugabe too hard could backfire, but critics said Mbeki's approach smacked of appeasement.

Zuma "will be more vocal in terms of what we see as deviant behavior," Mantashe told reporters. He characterized a recent ZANU-PF walkout from a government meeting over perceived insults to Mugabe as "adolescent behavior."

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