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Mugabe/Tsvangirai close to meeting

Staff Writers

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai are close to a face-to-face meeting ahead of the resumption of talks between the r

uling party and the opposition.

Sources close to the talks said church leaders had secured a meeting with Mugabe, expected to take place as early as next week.

After meeting Mugabe, the church leaders also expect to meet Tsvangirai before the leaders of Zimbabwe’s main political parties come together.

“The church leaders are very close to having Mugabe and Tsvangirai meet as there is now clear interest from both sides to talk,” a source said.

The meeting would break the ice for the resumption of the inter-party talks that collapsed in May last year. There have been various initiatives to resuscitate dialogue ever since.

The church leaders, Bishop Sebastian Bakare, Bishop Trevor Manhanga and Bishop Patrick Mutume, have been meeting Zanu PF leaders over the past couple of weeks in a bid to convince the ruling party to return to the negotiating table.

Talks between Zanu PF and the church leaders suffered a setback in August when the ruling party’s head of delegation to the talks with the MDC, Patrick Chinamasa, accused them of being opposition agents.

Manhanga yesterday could not give details but said: “We are very happy with the progress that has been made to date.”

MDC and Zanu PF leaders have reportedly been meeting to clear obstacles to dialogue.

Opposition leaders two weeks ago demonstrated their commitment to talks with Zanu PF by attending the late Vice-President Simon Muzenda’s funeral. Mugabe appreciated the MDC’s gesture and made conciliatory remarks during Muzenda’s burial.

Sources say the church leaders have so far managed to push Zanu PF to submit its agenda document after the ruling party showed signs of reluctance to do so. The MDC submitted its position paper in July and has been waiting for Zanu PF to do the same before talks can resume.

Dialogue was initially expected to restart last week but is now anticipated to resume anytime now.

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