Tsvangirai pushes Mbeki on talks

Dumisani Muleya/ Blessing Zulu


OPPOSITION Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has written a letter to South Afric

an president Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian and Malawian counterparts about talks on the Zimbabwean crisis.


Tsvangirai confirmed in an interview this week he wrote the letter after Mbeki, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Bakili Muluzi of Malawi visited Zimbabwe on May 5 but had not received a response.


He said the leaders’ failure to respond to the letter had killed the momentum of the talks as there had been no follow-up on the agenda items agreed upon at the time.


Mbeki and his colleagues met Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe separately during their visit.


“I wrote a letter to the three leaders as a follow-up to the meetings that we held in Harare during their recent visit,” Tsvangirai said. “So far they have not replied.”


In the letter Tsvangirai urged the three leaders to resolve the local crisis as the situation continued to deteriorate.


Efforts to obtain a copy of the letter were blocked by Tsvangirai’s spokesman William Bango. But Tsvangirai said “nothing substantive has happened to give us confidence since the three leaders’ visit”.


There have been reports recently of behind-the-scenes talks between the MDC and the ruling Zanu PF. These include a church initiative reported last month by the Zimbabwe Independent.


It has also been reported that Zanu PF officials visited Tsvangirai while he was in prison over his second treason charge arising from the recent mass action. But Tsvangirai said this was unfounded.


“I didn’t see anybody,” he said. “I didn’t meet anybody in prison.” Asked if it was true that State Security minister Nicholas Goche tried to visit him in prison as reported in the press, Tsvangirai said: “I didn’t see him.”


However, Tsvangirai confirmed there were church leaders trying to get the MDC and Zanu PF to the negotiating table.


“There have been no formal talks but that does not mean there are no initiatives at local, regional and international levels,” he said. “The churches are taking a national responsibility and we have said we welcome that. But I can’t reveal details about that because these are matters


happening behind the scenes.”


The Independent reported earlier this year that catholic clergyman Father Fidelis Mukonori last year tried to broker talks, apparently with Mugabe’s support, between the MDC and Zanu PF. The Heads of Christian Denominations held meetings in May with representatives of the two parties in a bid to kick-start dialogue.


The churches are trying to revive the talks, sources involved said, after claims that the publication of the Independent’s story had scuppered their initiative.


Calls for serious talks to break the political impasse over Zimbabwe’s deepening economic crisis are growing louder at home and abroad.


On Monday United States President George Bush starts his trip to Africa which will see him meet Mbeki, Obasanjo, and the leaders of Botswana, Senegal and Uganda.


The Zimbabwe crisis is expected to loom large in Bush’s tour. African Union leaders could also give impetus to the talks if they tackle the Zimbabwe crisis at their summit, which starts in Maputo today. Tsvangirai said the MDC was sending a team to the meeting.


He also said his party would dispatch a team to meet Bush’s delegation in South Africa to engage the Americans at various levels. Washington has been piling pressure on Mugabe to abandon repression and misrule.


US Secretary of State Colin Powell has already set the tone for Bush’s trip by urging Mugabe to cease tyranny and consider a negotiated settlement to rescue the sinking country.


The MDC has targeted South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola and Zambia in its diplomatic offensive.