HOPES for a negotiated political settlement between the ruling Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faded yesterday after the opposition said it would proceed with its court p
etition against President Robert Mugabe’s disputed re-election last year.
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said his party was geared to proceeding with the case which opens in the High Court on November 3.
The two parties have been talking behind the scenes since March in a bid to strike a deal to break the current impasse.
“The March 2002 presidential election is in dispute and we as a party have done a lot of work legally and politically to ensure the case sees the light of day in court,” Nyathi said. “Unless the date November 3 disappears from the calendar the case will go ahead.”
The MDC’s renewed push for the court hearing came as Mugabe met a new team of church leaders led by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference’s Bishop Michael Basera on Wednesday at Zimbabwe House.
The meeting was aimed at convincing Mugabe to return to the negotiating table.
However, the court case will almost certainly snuff out any prospects of a political deal or a resumption of talks that collapsed last year in May. The two parties last met informally on July 31.
The State has filed notice in the High Court to amend the indictment in the treason trial of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a bid to secure a conviction. The trial is set to resume on October 27.
The two high-profile cases should raise the political temperature and could wreck the fragile negotiating platform which the churches have tried to erect.
Before the informal dialogue broke down, Zanu PF and the MDC were edging towards an agreement on fundamental issues such as Mugabe’s legitimacy crisis and constitutional reform.
The MDC’s renewed push for the election petition came as the bid to resume talks by inter-party delegations collapsed in confusion.
Zanu PF now seems to have abandoned the initiative after Mugabe was banned from attending the Commonwealth meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, in December.
The MDC appears exasperatedover the ruling party’s failure totake measures to create a conducive environment for talks illustrated by the closure of the Daily News and arrest of ZCTU leaders.
Tsvangirai in July attended the opening of parliament and opposition officials were at the late Vice-President Simon Muzenda’s funeral recently. Nyathi confirmed this was designed to reduce political tension but Zanu PF had not reciprocated, he said.
Parallel to this process, church leaders have been battling to convince Zanu PF to get serious. Bishops Sebastian Bakare, Trevor Manhanga and Patrick Mutume have been struggling to restart talks between the two parties. It is hoped this week’s meeting between Basera and Mugabe will give renewed impetus to the church initiative.