SA happy with Zim talks

South Africa is happy with the progress being made to resolve the current Zimbabwean political and economic crisis, says South Africa's deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Aziz Pahad.

South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki was mandated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state at an extraordinary summit held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in March this year, to facilitate talks between the Zimbabwean government and the opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Pahad was addressing the media on the progress made by the International Relations, Peace and Security (IRPS) Cluster on the implementation of the Programme of Action (POA) and the consolidation of the African Agenda, on Wednesday in Cape Town.

Pahad claimed that there was unanimous acceptance by all stakeholders of the Zimbabwean talks of the Constitutional Amendment Bill No 18, which sought to harmonise presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in 2008.

Pahad said: “SA will continue to facilitate dialogue between the government and opposition parties, including representatives from civil society in order to resolve the remaining challenges facing Zimbabwe leading up to the 2008 general elections.

“Our primary focus remains ensuring an outcome that expresses the free will of the people of Zimbabwe as a critical element of opening avenues to tackle the serious socio-economic crisis.”

Pahad said South Africa was confident that many of the outstanding issues would be successfully resolved to ensure free and fair elections next year.

SADC finance ministers had met in Zambia where they reviewed the report by the SADC Executive Secretary, Tomaz Augusto Salomao on the economic situation in Zimbabwe and what SADC as a body could do to help Zimbabweans emerge from that crisis. Pahad said he was optimistic that the SADC had noted that there was a strong possibility that it would declare the SADC Free Trade Area by the time of the 2008 SADC Summit which will be hosted by South Africa.

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