Zimbabwe talks ‘adjourned’, not broken off

Claims that power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe’s opposition and negotiators for President Robert Mugabe had broken off were called into question on Tuesday.

South African President Thabo Mbeki denied that the secretive talks between Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had reached deadlock and said they were ”doing very well”.

”The negotiators are negotiating. As you know they have been meeting here now for a number of days and they are continuing to do that. They [the talks] are doing very well,” Mbeki told reporters in Pretoria.

Mbeki, the lead mediator in the negotiations, said the talks will adjourn for a couple of days to allow negotiators to return to Zimbabwe to consult their party leaders.

The talks began last week.

Late on Monday, two officials told news agencies that the talks had broken off, with the main sticking point Mugabe’s insistence that he be president of any new government.

The officials said the chief negotiators for Mugabe — Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche — were flying home to consult Mugabe about their mandate.

Another official, in South Africa, said MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had left Zimbabwe for South Africa to consult with his negotiators.

The officials — all close to the power-sharing talks — insisted on anonymity because all parties agreed to a media blackout during the talks, which began on Thursday.

‘Media mole’
The independent Zimbabwe news website NewZimbabwe.com, based in the United Kingdom, reported on Tuesday that a top MDC official, Theresa Makone, was returning to Zimbabwe after being exposed as a ”media mole” in the talks.

”Negotiators from Zanu-PF and the two MDC factions took a decision to feed her false information after having suspected her of leaking details of the secretive talks to the international media,” the website reported.

It quoted a ”diplomatic source” as saying the story was ‘a rope to let her [Makone] hang herself, a complete dummy”.

It reported the action against Makone was initiated at the behest of Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary general, who was concerned about what appeared to be leaks coming from his own party.

Tsvangirai and his MDC won most votes in the first round of elections in March, but Tsvangirai pulled out of a June run-off following months of escalating state-sponsored violence.

Mugabe ran alone and declared himself winner, but the election was widely discredited internationally as a sham.

The biggest obstacle to any agreement has been who would lead a new government.

Tsvangirai has said that an agreeable settlement must recognise only his victory in the March elections. Mugabe, who has survived years of attempts to oust him, even by his own party, insists he should head any government.

The agreement to hold power-sharing talks was reached a week ago with increasing violence putting pressure on the opposition while intense international disapproval — including some African governments saying they could not recognise Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe — appeared to sway Mugabe’s ruling party.

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