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Zuma has dim view of Zimbabwe

Mugabe complains of sanctions but South African leader says restore law and agriculture.

Despite Mugabe’s efforts to divert Zuma’s attention from the outstanding issues, the South African leader has signaled a more robust approach in dealing with his troubled northern neighbor. His African National Congress party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, indicating a shift from the “quiet diplomacy” of former president Thabo Mbeki, said South Africa will be more outspoken in its attempt to curb what he called “deviant behavior” in the Mugabe camp.

In his speech at the opening of the Harare Agricultural Show, Zuma spoke of the need to meet terms defined last September in what is called the Global Political Agreement that established the power-sharing government — a key MDC demand — and the need for full implementation of the agreement.

"We are aware that some economic and development partners and donor countries have put some benchmarks to be met before they can extend financial assistance and currently only offer humanitarian assistance,” Zuma said. “Since these relate to the implementation of the GPA, to which signatories remain fully committed, meeting benchmarks should be a priority of the inclusive government.”

He also placed emphasis upon the need for agricultural stability, a clear reference to the chaos taking place on Zimbabwe’s farms.

He spoke of the need to “restore full productivity of all agricultural land in the interest of all the people of Zimbabwe.”

Zuma came to open the Harare Agricultural Show, the annual fair that used to be a grand display of Zimbabwe's agricultural productivity and the industries that supported farming. The once impressive show of Zimbabwe's prosperity now bears more resemblance to a shabby flea market. Zuma and Mugabe walked by empty stands. Where once huge dairy cows and plump pigs testified to the nation’s agricultural self-sufficiency, there is now a dustbowl.

Gone is the state-of-the-art equipment that advertised the country’s agricultural prowess. Gone are the trappings of a successful state. The only cows on display belonged to the president’s nephew. Many government stands were empty. Women at the Ministry for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises were exhibiting their crochet work.

The contrast with South Africa, which boasts the continent's most developed economy, couldn’t have been clearer.

“It shows just how far down the road to dereliction we have come,” said veteran show-goer Freddy Tafara. “It is a tragedy really when you think what we once exhibited here.”

Mugabe’s publicists have always said South Africa has much to learn from Zimbabwe’s example. Reflecting during his flight back to Pretoria on what he had seen, Zuma could have only agreed.