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Zanu PF, MDC resume talks

Dumisani Muleya/Constantine Chimakure

THE ruling Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have resumed talks locally and in

South Africa to resolve the current crisis after they agreed recently to pass Constitutional Amendment (No 18) Bill which seeks to introduce controversial political reforms.

Sources close to the negotiations said the parties held several meetings between themselves and also under the mediation of South Africans last week at different venues in Harare and other parts of the country. They said the meetings were held in government offices, parliament, and places such as Kariba and Nyanga.

“There were many meetings held last week at different places, in Harare, at Parliament Building, Munhumutapa Building, Chaminuka Building, in Kariba, Nyanga, Masvingo and other places,” one source said.

“Meetings have been held all over. I can’t give you the details of the discussions but issues on the agenda. There has been heated debate on sanctions, for instance, which is a double-edged sword for the MDC and other issues.”

The sources said yesterday Zanu PF and the MDC negotiators, who include Patrick Chinamasa, Nicholas Goche, Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, were in Pretoria for further negotiations. Efforts to get comment from them were unsuccessful as their cellphones were unreachable.

A strict confidentiality clause has been signed by the parties to ensure no information leaks out about the negotiations. However, the media has been getting details about the talks. The Zimbabwe Independent has been able to get accurate details of the talks to the extent that parties in the dialogue have been complaining.

The Independent has been confronted by the negotiators with complaints and pleas not to reveal more details of the talks. Pretoria has taken the issue to another level by going to the extent of making enquiries at its embassy in Harare in a desperate bid to detect and plug the leakages, but the effort has largely failed because all parties involved talk to the Independent. South Africa made its enquires on the issue on the basis of false information given to mediators by one of the MDC negotiators — who is desperately scrambling to gag the press — on who was leaking stories to the Independent.

After dealing with several electoral issues, which Zanu PF says were very urgent, the parties were now engaging each other on outstanding agenda items under “Track II” in the dialogue. Track I was the amendment of the constitution to facilitate the delimitation of constituencies.

Track II is focusing on the constitution, security legislation, media laws and the political climate, dealing with a range of issues such as the militarisation of state institutions, the role of chiefs and sanctions.

The sources say the two parties have “substantially agreed” on a new draft constitution guaranteed by South African president Thabo Mbeki who was appointed by Sadc to facilitate the talks.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said on Monday he would come to Harare in two weeks time to recommend multilateral mediation by African heads of state to try to solve the current crisis.

Wade said he wanted to discuss with President Robert Mugabe how African leaders, including himself and Mbeki, could mediate between Zanu PF and the MDC.

Mbeki recently said he believed there should be no other initiatives, except the Sadc one, on the Zimbabwe crisis. Wade said Mbeki should not be the only one dealing with the issue.

The negotiations are expected to end by October 30.

The MDC expects to get a new constitution, amendment of the Electoral Act, Public Order and Security Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Local Government Act, and Traditional Leaders Act among others.

After getting support for the constitutional amendment, Zanu PF expects to get backing on the scrapping of sanctions and the blocking of foreign radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe. However, the MDC has no power to get the sanctions lifted and radio stations blocked.

This has become a big sticking point, the sources say. They said sanctions featured prominently during last week’s meetings.

The two parties are said to meet sometimes for five hours a day in a bid to beat their self-imposed deadline.

Although MDC officials said they had consulted top local lawyers who include former Law Society president Sternford Moyo, Selby Hwacha, Harrison Nkomo and Nokuthula Moyo on drafting a new constitution, the attorneys said this week they had not been involved. They said they were neither consulted nor aware of the existence of a new draft constitution.

However, their names have been bandied about at MDC meetings over the issue, probably without their knowledge, the sources said.

The sources said Mbeki promised MDC leaders that he would guarantee the new draft constitution, which has “substantially been agreed on” between the two parties, although some issues are still subject to negotiation.

The sources said if the final draft is ultimately adopted by the two negotiating parties by October 30, it would then be taken to their leaders and structures in November and to parliament by December. After that the draft would be kept ready for introduction after the elections in March.

This is Zanu PF’s position, which the MDC might agree to because the ruling party has taken a decision it will not accept a new constitution before the elections. President Robert Mugabe has stated that he does not want a new constitution.

This position was restated and agreed at his party’s politburo meeting on September 5. The sources said Zanu PF wants the coming polls to be held under the current Lancaster House constitution as modified by Amendment No 18 and to have a new one introduced at an agreed date after the elections.

MDC leaders have been saying that there would be a new constitution before the elections without clarifying whether or not it would come into effect ahead of the polls.

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