Prospects dim for Zim peace deal
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party will not accept a power-sharing deal that fails to recognise his re-election or seeks to reverse his land reform programme, a state-owned newspaper said on Friday.
The conditions, which the Herald newspaper said were agreed at a Zanu-PF politburo meeting earlier this week, could dim prospects for a deal at negotiations between Mugabe’s party and two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The talks began on Thursday under South African mediation. They aim to break the deadlock over Mugabe’s victory in a June 27 run-off election, boycotted by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai because of violence and condemned by Western nations.
“The meeting noted that there has to be a figure who appoints the all-inclusive government envisaged in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the three parties on Monday,” the government mouthpiece said.
“And that figure is President Mugabe who won the run-off.”
The newspaper also said Zanu-PF would never agree to a national unity government that sought to reverse Mugabe’s controversial seizure of thousands of white-owned firms to give to landless black Zimbabweans.
Critics say the farm seizures helped wreck the once prosperous economy and bring food shortages and inflation now running at two-million percent, but the opposition has said it would not go back on the land seizures.
African governments see a national unity government as the only way to reverse the economic meltdown and avert an escalation of political violence in Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai withdrew from the election run-off after attacks on his supporters by pro-Mugabe militia in which he says 120 activists were killed. Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, blames the opposition for the bloodshed.
Tsvangirai won a first round vote in March but failed to win the absolute majority required to avoid a second round.
The MDC leader had demanded that the government recognise his victory in the March poll and halt all violence against the opposition as pre-conditions for talks. He agreed on Monday to go ahead with negotiations without any iron-clad guarantees.
A spokesperson for Tsvangirai’s MDC on Friday said the party would not accept any negotiations based on the June 27 result.
“We have a pact not to talk to the media, but if that is their [Zanu-PF] position, it is unfortunate for the country. Our position is clear that June 27 is controversial and it, therefore, falls away,” the MDC’s Nelson Chamisa told Reuters.
“It is not admissible as a parameter guiding the engagement,” Chamisa added.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating the Zimbabwe crisis since 2007, has said the Zimbabwean parties face a tight two-week deadline to conclude the talks, which are expected to be tense.
The parties sharply disagree over how long a national unity government should remain in power. Tsvangirai’s MDC wants fresh elections held as soon as possible, while Mugabe wants to carry on with his new five-year mandate.
Laurence Caromba, a researcher at the Centre for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria, said the idea of allowing Mugabe and his Zanu-PF to remain in power may be unacceptable to many Zimbabweans.
“South African mediators hope to square this circle by advocating for a government of national unity, but this idea flatly ignores the wishes of the Zimbabwean people,” Caromba said in an analysis of the crisis.
Process of dialogue
Meanwhile, South Africa and the European Union on Friday began their first summit in the French city of Bordeaux with Pretoria set to defend and jealously guard its mediating role in Zimbabwe.
The key event was kicked off by French President Nicolas Sarkozy—whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU—South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso.
The meet has been overshadowed by the political crisis in Zimbabwe and the diametrically opposed stands of Pretoria and Brussels on ways of resolving the impasse.
The EU on Tuesday widened sanctions against Zimbabwe despite a deal brokered by Mbeki between Mugabe and Tsvangirai on talks for a future government.
Brussels views Mugabe as a tyrant who has crushed human rights and democracy and led the once-model African economy to ruin and burdened with the world’s highest inflation rate.
Mbeki, on the other hand, has so far failed to publicly criticise Mugabe, and appears opposed to any attempt to arm-twist the octogenarian leader and to bow to any form of Western pressure.
“Our view is that there has been a major step forward in the process of dialogue in Zimbabwe thanks to the tireless and behind the scenes effort of President Mbeki,” said South African foreign ministry spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa.
“We want all those parties who have a genuine desire for a resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe to give the current peace process a strong boost,” Mamoepa added.
A source at the European Commission said: “Zimbabwe is always on the agenda during meetings with the South Africans but we are not expecting anything significant.”
Mamoepa on Friday slammed Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga for speaking out on the Zimbabwean situation and insisting that Mugabe release all political prisoners.
“We are not aware of the accreditation of Prime Minister Odinga as a mediator on the Zimbabwean question,” Mamoepa said.
“Odinga is demanding that President Mugabe release all political prisoners and to host teleconferences, but in what capacity?” he added. - Reuters, AFP