President Jacob Zuma must encourage the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to halt elections in Zimbabwe until key democratic reforms are made, the DA said on Monday.

“Zuma, as SADC-appointed mediator to Zimbabwe, must encourage the SADC to use the mechanisms at its disposal to ensure that elections do not go ahead until key democratic reforms have been made,” said the party’s Parliamentary leader Athol Trollip.

This follows the arrest of Jameson Timba, a cabinet minister and key aide to Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Timba, who is the minister of state in the prime minister’s office, was detained on Friday under Zimbabwe’s security laws, for accusing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe of lying about the outcome of a recent SADC summit in Joburg.

During his detention, Timba was allegedly denied food and access to his lawyers. A high court Judge ruled on Sunday that he be released, saying his rights had been violated.

“These are not the actions of a regime that is keen to embrace democratic reform, nor is this the behaviour of a state that is ready to hold free and fair elections,” said Trollip.

“South Africa needs to play a central role in taking a decisive stand against ongoing political repression in Zimbabwe as reports of intimidation, violence and voter fraud continue.”

He said the arrest was an illustration of Mugabe’s determination to entrench “repressive, tyrannical rule” in Zimbabwe.

Zuma should see to it that the tougher approach adopted by the SADC security organ at its March meeting in Zambia was maintained.

“Mugabe’s attempts to undermine political progress in Zimbabwe are decisively addressed by the appropriate SADC structures,” said Trollip.

In the light of continued political instability in Zimbabwe, the decision taken at last month’s SADC summit to extend a moratorium on the hearing of new cases at the SADC Tribunal was of grave concern, he said.

“This decision effectively dissolves this crucial body, which is responsible for adjudicating disputes between citizens and governments of SADC states when all domestic legal avenues have been exhausted.

“The tribunal was an important legal resource for Zimbabwean citizens, whose domestic legal system is deeply flawed,” said Trollip.