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Zim war vets say Tsvangirai stalling talks

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s war veteran allies accused opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday of stalling power-sharing talks on orders from Western powers.

War veterans, backed by the army and ruling party militants called ”green bombers,” served as Mugabe’s political shock troops in his campaign to retain power in a widely condemned June election run-off which Tsvangirai boycotted over attacks on his supporters.

Jabulani Sibanda, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association chairperson, said Mugabe would never bow to what he called Tsvangirai’s attempts to grab more power in talks aimed at ending the crisis that has deepened since the election.

In remarks published on Friday, Tsvangirai said Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF was to blame for the stalemate.

Political tensions rose on Thursday after Tsvangirai said Mugabe’s decision to go ahead with opening Parliament next week was a ”repudiation” of the basis for talks and he suggested Mugabe might have decided to abandon negotiations.

”The war veterans, who are custodians of the country’s revolution, welcome the convening of Parliament set for next week,” Sibanda told state media, urging Mugabe to form a new Cabinet.

Sibanda said ”the West had engineered the impasse in the talks so that their preferred leader takes over”.

Western countries, key to the funding that Zimbabwe needs to emerge from economic collapse, have said they would only recognise a government led by Tsvangirai. He defeated Mugabe in a first-round vote in March.

Deadlock over roles
Mugabe has often accused his old foe, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), of being a puppet of the United States and former colonial power Britain and ignoring Western sanctions he blames for Zimbabwe’s economic decline.

Tsvangirai denies the accusations.

On Thursday, Tsvangirai confirmed that the power sharing talks were deadlocked over the roles of president and prime minister in a new government.

Mugabe is expected to remain as president but, backed by security chiefs, he is reluctant to cede key powers. Tsvangirai wants a real executive power as prime minister.

”Tsvangirai keeps demanding more, and the more he demands the more [Western] sanctions are imposed so that we yield to his demands,” said Sibanda.

”That is a condition that will never happen, a step that will never be taken by Zanu-PF as a party and the people of Zimbabwe.”

Tsvangirai suggested the talks could make progress if Zanu-PF showed some flexibility.

”Let them demonstrate what powers they have ceded to the prime minister or to the other party,” he said in an interview published in the Star newspaper.

”Identify those areas and you will see who is the stumbling block.”

Both Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF and Tsvangirai’s main MDC are under intense pressure from within Africa and around the world to reach an agreement that will pave the way for rebuilding Zimbabwe’s devastated economy.

Zimbabwe’s inflation rate rocketed to over 11-million percent in June and chronic food, fuel and foreign currency shortages are worsening.

”With or without him [Tsvangirai], Zimbabwe can still stand despite the sanctions imposed on the country,” said Sibanda. – Reuters

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