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22 Oct 2008 09:01
Zimbabwe’s opposition warned on Tuesday its leader might steer clear of another regional summit designed to save a power-sharing accord, saying it had yet to decide whether to trust President Robert Mugabe.
The day after Morgan Tsvangirai refused to meet with Mugabe at a summit in Swaziland, his Movement for Democratic Change party said it was unconvinced the veteran ruler’s camp was negotiating in good faith.
Hoping to rescue the unity accord, Southern African leaders agreed to hold new talks between the rivals in Harare on October 27, but MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said that Tsvangirai could not yet confirm if he would attend.
“We are assessing the sincerity of these guys to see if they are negotiating in good faith or not,” he said.
Fresh elections would be a final option if the deal collapsed but the party was committed to making the agreement to work, said Chamisa.
“We really want this deal to work,” he said. “It only becomes inevitable for elections when the deal has collapsed, then we can talk of elections but now we are committed to this deal.”
“Elections are the last resort and this will be a fall-back position, when everything has been tried and done,” Chamisa added.
Tsvangirai is furious that the Mugabe government has failed to issue him with a new passport for several months, forcing him to instead seek emergency travel documents, valid for a single trip, each time he leaves the country.
His refusal to travel to Swaziland on Monday came after he was only given the travel documents on Sunday night, a delay his party said was an insult.
In a statement, the MDC warned the government’s refusal to give Tsvangirai a passport “puts the entire political agreement in jeopardy”.
The new summit in Harare “may be in vain if Zanu-PF continues to display such a blatant lack of trust,” the statement added.
Under the power-sharing deal, 84-year-old Mugabe is to remain as president while Tsvangirai takes the new post of prime minister.
But talks are stalled over control of powerful ministries—particularly home affairs, which oversees the police force that is accused of widespread human rights abuses.
The government mouthpiece Herald newspaper accused Tsvangirai of trying to undermine the talks, saying: “The demands he has been making are unreasonable.”
“The prevailing situation of endless talks bodes well for Tsvangirai’s agenda of working towards state paralysis.
This fits well with the West’s long-desired collapse that would see them install a puppet regime to serve their interest,” the paper said.
However, a top UN envoy said he still believed the deal would succeed.
“Both sides know by now that there is no other way but to sit down and reach an agreement,” UN Undersecretary for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios said in Addis Ababa.
“There have been other groups [that] have been at war with each other in the past but ended up finding a solution, so there is reason to believe that such agreements can work even here.”
Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, in a first-round presidential vote in March, when the MDC also forced Zanu-PF into the minority in Parliament for the first time.
He failed to win enough votes for an outright victory and then pulled out of the run-off in June, accusing the regime of coordinating a brutal campaign of violence that left scores of his supporters dead.
The political squabbling has dimmed hopes for halting Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, with the country buckling under the world’s highest rate of inflation, officially at 231-million percent but believed to be much higher.
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