South African President Jacob Zuma will this week send his facilitation team to Zimbabwe to diffuse simmering tensions in the coalition after heavy lobbying by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai returned home on Friday after a whirlwind regional tour that took him to Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa and Botswana to raise the alarm on the worsening relations in Harare’s unity government.

The PM said he had told regional leaders that the coalition government had been hijacked by “dark and sinister forces” with the country now sliding into a police state.

Zuma reacted by promising to send his three-member facilitation team led by a senior advisor Charles Nqakula.

Former minister Mac Maharaj and Zuma’s international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu are the other members of the team.

“South Africa has been tasked by SADC to work with the Zimbabwean parties to find solutions to their political challenges,” the South African presidency said in a statement on Friday.

“President Zuma will next week send his Zimbabwe facilitation team to Harare to meet parties to the Global Political Agreement.”

The visit by the team also comes ahead of the meeting of the SADC troika on peace and security in Zambia on March 31 to deal with the Zimbabwe crisis.

Zuma might have been forced to dispatch the trio after indications that relations between ZANU PF and MDC-T had broken down, paralysing the inclusive government in the process.

“While I was away in the last four days, it appears the civilian authority is no longer in charge and dark and sinister forces have engaged in a hostile takeover of running the affairs of the country,” Tsvangirai told journalists.

An already volatile situation in the inclusive government was inflamed by the arrest of Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma last Thursday on corruption charges.

On the same day it was announced that the Supreme Court had nullified the election of MDC-T chairman Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of Parliament.

Tsvangirai and Moyo reacted angrily and accused the police and the judiciary of being in ZANU PF’s pocket.

ZANU PF apologists including Tsholotsho North MP Jonathan Moyo called for the PM’s arrest on contempt of court charges and there were indications that the country’s prosecutions authority was taking the calls seriously.

A ban on an MDC-T rally that was scheduled for Harare yesterday left the future of the inclusive government increasingly doubtful.

Brilliant Mhlanga, a Zimbabwean academic based at the University of Westminster in the UK said not much should be expected from Zuma’s team as they were only there to facilitate dialogue.

“He merely is sending his teams to facilitate dialogue and end there,” Mhlanga said.

“The rest should be left to the Zimbabweans to decide whether they want their coalition to collapse or not.

“Zuma can facilitate dialogue between Zimbabweans and then leave everything to them to also decide the fate of their coalition government as rational beings.”

ZANU PF has embarked on an aggressive election campaign that also includes attempts to force Zimbabweans to sign a two-million-signature petition calling for an end to Western sanctions.

The party is holding its meetings undisturbed while its opponents face police bans.

Commenting on Tsvangirai’s regional tour, President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba last week said there was nothing outsiders could do to stop ZANU PF’s electioneering.

“Let him go anywhere he thinks he can get help, but I can assure you that the momentum in Zimbabwe is unstoppable,” Charamba said.

“There is no stopping. We are going for elections.

“I have no respect for a political leader who conscripts a regional leader to douse a fire in his own home. The essence of politics is to be able to handle pressure,” he said.