Renewed focus on ending Zim crisis must be applauded
You've got to hand it to Lindiwe Zulu and her team of mediators on Zimbabwe. President Jacob Zuma's top foreign affairs adviser has been publicly vilified by Zanu-PF heavyweights because of her determination to ensure that the opposing parties in the fragile power-sharing government stick to the terms of the global political agreement struck four years ago.
The stakes are high: the possibility of free and fair elections next year. If the elections are credible, and are not accompanied by the levels of violence that were witnessed during the last poll in 2008, then surely billions in foreign investment will flow into the cash-starved country that President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF government almost brought to its knees.
Before voting can take place, key reforms have to be effected to create a climate that is conducive to a credible election, including the completion of the constitution-making process.
This week, Zulu repeated South Africa's position: Western nations should lift economic sanctions and Harare's power-sharing government should speed up the reform process.
The jury is still out on whether the time is right to lift sanctions - some observers believe Mugabe's party, which still controls the army and the police, has not gone nearly far enough to create the necessary environment for voting.
But the SADC team is slowly making progress in Zimbabwe. This week, key appointments were made to the regional bloc's joint monitoring committee, which will work closely with Zuma's facilitators.
Negotiators of the three main parties, Zanu-PF, Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC, and a breakaway MDC faction, will meet this weekend.
The SADC mediators will return to Zimbabwe before month end to monitor progress, and a planned visit by Zuma has been put on hold.
Suddenly there is a new sense of urgency in Zimbabwe. As Zulu puts it: "The fact that the global political agreement does not have an endless life span is pushing them to realise that they don't have the luxury of time any more."