THE MDC yesterday told South Africa President Thabo Mbeki that Zanu PF was not committed to the Sadc-initiated inter-party talks as political viole
nce is escalating ahead of next year’s elections.
Tendai Biti, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction of the MDC’s secretary-general, told a media conference yesterday that both factions of the opposition said to Mbeki that violence was intensifying against its members. Biti said they told Mbeki, facilitator of the talks, this was an indication that Zanu PF was not sincere about dialogue.
Biti said the MDC asked Mbeki to tell President Robert Mugabe to stop violence against the opposition forthwith.
“We highlighted that violence against citizens occurs everyday, our meetings are still being banned. Everyday what the government is doing is illogical to logical intended goals of the dialogue,” he said.
“We told President Mbeki that there is a big gap between what is agreed during the talks and what takes place out there. There is no evidence of a definitive paradigm shift on the part of Zanu PF that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe. They are in denial. There is denial that the opposition exists in Zimbabwe,” he added.
But Mugabe, speaking to journalists after meeting Mbeki, dismissed the MDC claims of state-sponsored violence.
Mugabe said: “That’s the usual accusation from the MDC. What basis do they have for raising that matter in the dialogue that is taking place? Maybe he (Tsvangirai) wanted to confer to his friends whoever they are… We wonder whether he raised the issue of the recent violence in his party between factions of the two women and him taking sides… I don’t think he raised that issue as he told his friends about the ills of my government.”
Biti said the MDC also told Mbeki Zanu PF should realise that dialogue was the only way to end Zimbabwe’s crisis.
He said the MDC wanted the talks to end the crisis of legitimacy by ensuring that elections are not stolen and that there is a new democratic constitution.
“We want legitimacy through uncontested elections. The elections must be acceptable to the international community and the region. They must also be in line with international standards and norms of democratic elections,” Biti added.
He said the MDC discussed with Mbeki the timeframe of the dialogue and it was agreed talks should end by early December.
“There are critical time limits on the dialogue. When you have gone through the process of re-writing laws and you need a gestation period to have those laws take root in the ground, when do you have elections?” Biti asked.
He said the parties to the dialogue were yet to deliberate on when next year’s harmonised presidential and parliamentary elections would be held. “The elections date is still on the talks agenda. We are still to negotiate on the matter,” Biti added.
Asked whether the MDC would contest next year’s elections if the talks collapse, he said the opposition was yet to make a decision on that. “We are committed to the peaceful resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis. The party will make a decision on whether or not to participate in the elections if the talks collapse,” Biti said.
He said the MDC and Mbeki also discussed the expectations of the Sadc region on the talks.
Both factions of the MDC met Mbeki at the South African High Commissioner’s residence at Highlands in Harare, with Tsvangirai leading his team made up of his deputy Thokozani Khupe, chairman Lovemore Moyo and Biti. The other faction was represented by its president Arthur Mutambara, his deputy Gibson Sibanda and secretary-general Welshman Ncube.
Tsvangirai and Mutambara met Mbeki in Pretoria, South Africa, last weekend to discuss progress on the talks.
Tsvangirai is said to have given Mbeki a document chronicling alleged Zanu PF acts of violence against the opposition.