/ 8 July 2008

Zim talks to resume under Mbeki

President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party and Zimbabwe’s opposition are to resume talks to resolve the country’s political crisis, state media reported on Tuesday.

Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told government mouthpiece Herald newspaper that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change had agreed to the resumption of negotiations with Zanu-PF under the mediation of South African President Thabo Mbeki.

”We have received communication … that they are ready for a resumption of the inter-party talks,” Chinamasa said without providing details on when and where the talks would take place or what would be discussed.

Tendai Biti, MDC secretary general, declined to confirm or deny the report.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said the opposition will not participate in any negotiations until Mugabe’s government halts a wave of political violence against his supporters and accepts his victory in a March 29 presidential election.

Tsvangirai won that poll but failed to win an outright majority. Mugabe was declared the winner of a June 27 run-off, which was boycotted by Tsvangirai and condemned as illegitimate by much of the world.

Tsvangirai refused to attend talks with Mbeki and Mugabe in Harare on Saturday because that would have endorsed the veteran Zimbabwean leader’s disputed re-election. Tsvangirai accuses Mbeki of favouring Mugabe and has called for expanded mediation by the African Union.

Mbeki grilled by G8
Mbeki was given a fierce grilling by Group of Eight (G8) leaders on Monday at a private meeting at which they told him that they did not believe his mediation efforts in Zimbabwe were succeeding.

They also rejected his suggestion that Mugabe remain as titular head of Zimbabwe.

At what was described as a fiery meeting, United States President George Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, all challenged Mbeki’s assertion that his quiet diplomacy was working, a claim that was also questioned at the same meeting by some African leaders, including the Nigerian President, Umaru Yar’Adua, and John Kufuor, President of Ghana.

But Mbeki warned Britain and the US that Zimbabwe could descend into civil war if they pressed for tougher sanctions against the Mugabe regime.

As the meeting took place it emerged that the tortured and burnt body of a Zimbabwe opposition party worker had been found on a farm belonging to an army colonel, two weeks after the activist was abducted.

TheMDC said the discovery of Joshua Bakacheza’s corpse came amid a renewed intensification of violence as the government attempts to break resistance to recognition of Mugabe’s victory in the widely condemned June 28 election.

At least 20 opposition activists have been murdered since the ballot.

The G8 is expected to issue a statement on Tuesday calling for sanctions unless Mugabe responds to mediation. There is increasing frustration among some Western heads of government that they are asking their electorates to donate $25-billion for Africa by 2010 when some of Africa’s most senior leaders are unwilling to take a stand in favour of democracy and human rights.

Gordon Brown’s spokesperson insisted Britain wanted an outcome in Zimbabwe that reflected the first-round election results, in which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai gained the highest number of presidential votes and his MDC party won control of the Parliament. – Reuters