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Will terrorism acquittal of MDC's Roy Bennett salvage Zimbabwe unity government?

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That’s unlikely, says Judy Smith-Hohn, a Zimbabwe analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria (a city also known as Tshwane).

“I think Roy Bennett’s offer to step aside is a major step, a real sign of willingness on the part of MDC to get this process moving again,” says Ms. Smith-Hohn. “Whether ZANU-PF [Mugabe’s party] is going to recognize that step, or continue to focus on the issue of sanctions, it is too early to say.”

Progress depends on AU, SADC

The only way Zimbabwe will resolve the current political impasse, she says, is if it is forced to do so by other African states, under the umbrellas of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. “The only time ZANU-PF has compromised is when the [African Union] and [Southern African Development Community] had the same message, that you need to form a government of national unity,” says Smith-Hohn.

The AU and SADC need to send Mugabe the unified message that he must cooperate with his coalition partners if he wants sanctions lifted, says Smith-Hohn.

SADC’s current mediation process, led by South African President Jacob Zuma, seems to have stalled, but it has recently been joined by Congolese President Joseph Kabila, a close friend and supporter of Mugabe.

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