Put pressure on Mugabe, says MDC

Zimbabwe’s main opposition called on regional powers on Monday to pressure President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party to be more flexible in power-sharing talks.

Negotiations between the two sides ended on the weekend without a deal, but a spokesperson for South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating the talks, said they were still alive.

“We hope the Southern African Development Community [SADC] and President Mbeki are going to play the umpire role and help to have flexibility on the part of Zanu-PF,” said Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“Zanu-PF has to be persuaded to be rational and put the people first. The dialogue is not just about power. It has to go beyond that,” Chamisa said.

“They [ZANU-PF] are not committed to finding a solution to the problems bedevilling the country. All they want is power,” he added.

The talks, which began in July, have stalled amid differences over how to share executive powers between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a national-unity government.

The rival parties returned home from South Africa on the weekend after Mbeki’s bid to kick-start the talks failed.

Mbeki had separate talks with negotiators from both camps on Friday.

His spokesperson said on Monday that the talks would continue, but declined to say when or how they would resume.

“The mediation and the talks continue, it is an ongoing process. Don’t listen to the insinuations that the talks broke down,” spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said.

Chamisa insisted on Monday that the continued detention of four opposition MPs, arrested last week, was “part of the Zanu-PF strategy to undermine our majority in Parliament”.

“One wonders about the sincerity of Zanu-PF in the talks. You can’t be hunting down the very people you are negotiating with.”

Mugabe has threatened to form a new government without the MDC if the impasse continues.

The 84-year-old leader, in power since independence in 1980, was re-elected in June in a one-man presidential run-off after Tsvangirai, victor in the first round, bowed out amid widespread electoral violence.

Aid agencies
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe on Friday lifted a ban on aid agencies suspended ahead of the June 27 presidential run-off over accusations that some of them were siding with the opposition.

“The government has, with immediate, effect lifted the suspension of operations of private voluntary organisations and NGOs,” said a Social Welfare Ministry statement read on state television.

Tsvangirai had called on Wednesday for the immediate resumption of aid programmes in the country, saying the country faced “a profound humanitarian crisis”.

The Welfare Ministry said aid organisations involved included those working in “humanitarian and food assistance, relief, recovery and development, childcare and protection and rights of people with disabilities”.

“Others are those involved in HIV/Aids treatment, care and other support services,” it said.

On Wednesday, Tsvangirai demanded that “NGOs be allowed to resume humanitarian assistance—distributing food, medicines and life-saving assistance”.

“This destructive policy of banning humanitarian assistance can be reversed with one letter,” he said.—AFP

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