MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says there hasn’t been any progress towards formal dialogue between his party and the ruling Zanu PF. He has also dismissed as “dangerous and patronising” claims by
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa that the two parties were engaged in talks.
Tsvangirai said on Monday that Mbeki’s insistence that there was progress towards a negotiated settlement between the MDC and Zanu PF was “dangerously patronising”.
President Mugabe, Tsvangirai said, had taken advantage of the false impression created by Mbeki on dialogue to buy time and further close the democratic space.
Tsvangirai was speaking at a public seminar organised by the National Constitutional Assembly in Harare.
“When our neighbours talk about talks we listen with an open mind but we wonder when these talks will take place. I wonder where these talks are as claimed by our neighbours.”
He said the claims by Mbeki and other regional leaders had given Mugabe a weapon to frustrate the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe.
“This patronising is dangerous. We noticed during the last six months of last year that by giving dialogue a chance, Mugabe exploited that window of opportunity to demobilise the voices of democratic struggle.”
Mbeki has been insisting on progress towards dialogue to solve the Zimbabwean political impasse. Last year he succeeded in convincing American President George W Bush when he visited South Africa that he was in control and the Zimbabwean crisis would be solved “soon”.
Mbeki last month told visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that the South African government “has been engaging both sides (MDC and Zanu PF) for a long time”.
Mbeki’s policy of quiet diplomacy over Zimbabwe has been dismissed as inaudable and ineffective, but he has remained persistent over his strategy which he says will usher in a solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis.
The South African leader was in Zimbabwe in December and is understood to have extracted a commitment to dialogue from Mugabe, who however has maintained his iron-fisted handling of the opposition and civil society.
Despite informal meetings to deliberate on constitutional reforms between MDC and Zanu PF officials, impediments have hampered real progress towards the commencement of formal inter-party talks. An initiative led by local church leaders hit a snag at the stage of drafting the talks’ agenda.
The ruling party has made clear its preconditions that would see the opposition withdrawing a 2002 presidential election petition and calling off international sanctions among other things.
The opposition on the other hand has been calling for talks to commence unconditionally and each side has put issues of concern on the agenda table.
Meanwhile, the troika of church leaders comprising Bishops Sebastian Bakare, Patrick Mutume and Trevor Manhanga is reported as having been rapped by other clergy for lack of progress as well as failure to report back.
However, Manhanga on Wednesday, speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent from South Africa, said he and his undisclosed colleagues were on their way to Italy on talks’ business.
“We are on our way to Italy on talks’ business. I wouldn’t give more details until we come back and report on our mission. We have never stopped working on trying to find solutions to the Zimbabwean crisis,” Manhanga said.