11 August 2008

Zimbabwe: Crisis Talks Continue As Country Waits


The main political parties have been locked in negotiations over the weekend to try and thrash out a power sharing deal. Brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki the leaders of ZANU PF and MDC spent 14 hours on Sunday debating how to share government. The rivals were back at the negotiating table on Monday and as usual speculation is rife that the parties are squabbling over positions.

Journalists waiting outside the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare on Monday said the politicians are tightlipped and no information was forthcoming. Associated Press correspondent Angus Shaw said a table had been set up at the hotel for the signing ceremony, just in case agreement was reached.

"They are clearly anticipating there will be some signing, however we do understand that the principal sticking point is the sharing of powers and what powers Mr Mugabe will retain; what will be his executive role and what will be Morgan Tsvangirai's executive role."

No one apart from the leaders of the political parties actually knows what the details are and some analysts believe the media is being used to make it look as if progress is being made, when in actual fact there is no agreement, on any issue. Some MDC officials outside the negotiations have also said they don't see any signs of a breakthrough. They also feel that Mugabe and Mbeki would like to make it look as if Tsvangirai is the problem.

The only leader who made a public statement today was Robert Mugabe when he delivered a speech at Heroes Acre on Monday morning. The 84 year old dictator gave his usual criticism of the West and the 'sanctions' saying this was the inhibiting factor to talks and to Zimbabweans sorting out their own problems.

As usual he issued a warning in his speech: "If you are on the enemy's side or you are being used by enemies, stop it, that's it." He declared Zimbabwe "was not for sale" and "will never be a colony again." Thabo Mbeki did not attend the Heroes Day parade nor did Tsvangirai but the leader of the one MDC formation, Arthur Mutambara, was in attendance, and was warmly welcomed by Mugabe.

Meanwhile the Chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, Dr Lovemore Madhuku, was quoted in the South African press saying: "Without full control, the full 100 percent of executive power in Morgan's hands, it is worthless, the MDC should be very careful what they accept now, because they will find out in due course that there is little they will be able to do with anything less in political partnership with Mugabe."

Anti apartheid activist Allan Boesak is quoted in the South African Sunday Tribune, accusing Mbeki of using the continuing violence in Zimbabwe to blackmail the MDC into talks. Boesak asked: "It raises the fundamental question, why is the violence still continuing? Why is Mbeki not getting Mugabe to stop the violence? How can a real, honest settlement be achieved while violence is being perpetrated on people?"

International aid agencies are also very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, but there is no evidence of goodwill being shown by the Mugabe regime or an pressure coming from the South African facilitator. Mugabe has not stuck to the agreements of the Memorandum of Understanding, especially on the issue of allowing food aid and stopping the violence. There are also questions as to why Tsvangirai has not raised these issues - as an end to violence was a prerequisite for the talks.

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