President Robert Mugabe has intensified his fight against an emerging consensus among Sadc leaders for him to go, by among other tactics, trying to sideline and remove no-nonsense facilitator President Jacob Zuma.

Well-placed Sadc sources told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe had now identified Zuma as his biggest problem.

This was because the South African president was “unshakeable in his impartiality and determination” to see an election roadmap in Zimbabwe that would usher in a credible election next year or in 2013, that would be devoid of violence and rigging as happened in the disputed 2008 presidential election runoff.

The sources also said their own intelligence had established that Mugabe and his Zanu PF party were pushing for Zuma’s isolation because they were aware that they could not win a fair election.

To that extent, Mugabe and his Zanu PF viewed Zuma’s drive for a mutually agreed roadmap within the Global Political Agreement (GPA) context as an attack on Mugabe and the former ruling party.

Mugabe last week made two remarkable moves. Firstly, the 87-year-old – who has been to the Far East for medical reasons five times since December – effectively declared himself fit to rule for life.

He then unsuccessfully attempted to foist his agenda for an early election at Friday’s Sadc summit in Namibia that Zuma did not attend.

Sadc firmly rebuffed the bid.

“We are totally against the idea of a new election roadmap as it means re-negotiating the Global Political Agreement instead of implementing it,” read Zanu PF’s position paper that was circulated in Windhoek.

Mugabe had, through the position paper, tried to take advantage of Zuma’s absence to overturn resolutions of the Sadc troika on politics, defence and security which called for an end to violence, the full implementation of the GPA and elections only after the roadmap has been completed.

But one of the top Sadc officials who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said Mugabe’s attempts to attack and weaken Zuma and his facilitation team was “backfiring badly”.

Among other “ill-considered moves” by Zanu PF, the former ruling party had written to Zuma demanding the removal of Ambassador Lindiwe Zulu from the facilitation team, “alleging rather ridiculously” that she was biased against Zanu PF.

The Sadc insider said this move was being interpreted by the region as a very direct way by Mugabe and his party of asking Zuma to step aside from his facilitation work.

“This is surprising because Mugabe is literally biting the hand that feeds him. What future is there for Mugabe, Zanu PF and Zimbabwe without South Africa’s immense sacrifice for its neighbour.  Without Zuma and the GPA that he has kept together at great cost to him personally and his country, Mugabe would not be president anyway.

“Nevertheless, Mugabe is wasting time because Sadc is sick and tired of his machinations. He wants to trick us into believing that President Zuma is biased but it’s far from it.

“We are aware that Zuma’s frankness has rattled Mugabe and that is why he brought in his position paper which was ignored. Now they are spreading propaganda that it is Mugabe who said Zimbabwe must be discussed in the presence of President Zuma and other political players,” the official said.

Another official said part of the war against Zuma had resulted in Mugabe and Zanu PF gunning for the South African president’s focal person, Ambassador Zulu.

Zulu is not just a key member of Zuma’s facilitation team, she is also his international relations adviser.

She is on record stating that it is impossible to hold elections this year because of the slow progress in implementing GPA reforms such as a new constitution.

The State-controlled Sunday Mail, which rarely touches on sensitive political issues without direct instruction from Mugabe’s press office yesterday, reported that Zanu PF had formally lodged a complaint to South Africa about Zulu.

The former ruling party is holding Zulu responsible for recent comments made by Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC), raising fears that Mugabe’s potential death could spark chaos because of unresolved succession issues in the party.

“Negotiators are also concerned about the succession law should Mugabe die or retire before the adoption of a new constitution, which is still being negotiated,” read the ANC comment that Zanu PF now seeks to conveniently use against Zulu and the whole facilitation team.

However, the ANC never attributed the comments to Zulu – raising the question of why Zanu PF has sought to vilify her thus.

In the meantime, Mugabe insists he is staying put.  He recently sent envoys to regional countries to drill this message through and to court support from his regional peers.

In an interview with the Southern Times, Mugabe said there was no need to prolong elections. He also said that demands for security sector reforms by Sadc, other political players and civil society were without basis.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who leads Zanu PF’s GPA negotiating team, confirmed that Mugabe wanted to stay in power despite his advanced age and waning public support.

“And as far as Zanu PF is concerned, even at his age we know that he commands majority support among Zimbabweans,” Chinamasa told The Windhoek Times in a separate interview.

(Source)