Neighbors Urge Zimbabwe to Speed Up Reforms

Posted June 13th, 2011 at 9:55 am (UTC-5)
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Southern African leaders have urged Zimbabwe's fragile unity government to speed up reforms so that free and fair elections can be held.

In a statement released late Sunday, the Southern African Development Community said Zimbabwe must create a political environment that includes “a level playing field” for elections.

The regional bloc released the statement after a two-day summit in Johannesburg, where they worked on a roadmap for presidential elections in Zimbabwe.

The SADC instructed its security troika of South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique to develop a plan for Zimbabwean elections by August. But there are concerns that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will not follow the group's recommendations.

Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have called for elections to be held this year. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party want to delay the polls until a new constitution is adopted and other political reforms are in place.

The two sides formed an uneasy unity government in 2008 after disputed and violent presidential elections.

The SADC troika has been charged with ensuring that Zimbabwe implements the Global Political Agreement, which Mr. Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai signed to form the power-sharing government.

Rights groups say ZANU-PF uses intimidation and arrests to harass MDC supporters and squash the party's rallies. Without naming names, SADC members issued a rare public rebuke of Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF at a meeting earlier this year.