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MDC factions in talks discord

Constantine Chimakure

SHARP differences have emerged between the two MDC formations over the on-going Sadc-initiated talks between the opposition and Zanu PF, with the M

organ Tsvangirai-led camp this week making seven demands the government should meet before the dialogue can produce an agreement.

Sources said it was apparent that the Tsvangirai faction was edging closer to pulling out of the talks facilitated by South Africa President Thabo Mbeki alleging that the ruling party was negotiating in bad faith.

The sources said on the other hand, the Arthur Mutambara faction was satisfied with the progress of the dialogue and wanted to soldier on hoping that a concrete agreement would be reached by December 15 — the talks’ deadline.

“There are differences between the two factions on the approach to the talks,” one of the sources said. “The Tsvangirai group believes in megaphone negotiations. You cannot have a successful dialogue that way.”

Mutambara faction secretary-general Welshman Ncube and his Tsvangirai camp counterpart Tendai Biti left Harare for Pretoria, South Africa, on Wednesday for the continuation of the talks.

The Mutambara faction this week publicly accused Tsvangirai of trying to negotiate through the media and rallies despite the fact that when the dialogue commenced, the MDC and Zanu PF agreed to a confidentiality clause.

Ncube told the media that the parties to the talks should not “negotiate through the media or at rallies”. The Mutambara camp says talks are progressing very well.

Tsvangirai’s 46-member national executive met in the capital on Wednesday and resolved that the government should introduce a new constitution before next year’s harmonised presidential, legislative and council elections.

The executive demanded that the government should reconstitute the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that would compile a new voters roll and that delimitation of constituencies be done according to what was agreed during the talks.

It resolved that Zanu PF must cease acts of hostility, violence and publicly denounce violence, and sanction the resumption of operations of closed independent newspapers and guarantee freedom of journalists.

The party also demanded that the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Broadcasting Act and Electoral Laws should be amended to level the political playing field.

Nelson Chamisa, the party spokesperson, said the executive also resolved that “the international community must be allowed to operate unimpeded” in monitoring of elections and that all Zimbabweans, including those in the diaspora, must be allowed to exercise their democratic right to vote in the upcoming elections.

“The national executive resolved that neither an agreement nor a free and fair election would be possible unless there is delivery on the tangibles listed above,” Chamisa said. “The executive also urged the party leadership to remain engaged and continue consulting with civic partners in the quest for national solution to the current crisis.”

Chamisa said the executive, while acknowledging the ongoing talks in Pretoria, said “the tangible imperatives and deliverables must be met pending the meeting of the national council of the party on the 16th of December
2007″ to review the whole progress of the dialogue.

Tsvangirai has over the past three weeks being complaining that the talks were progressing at a slow pace with nothing on offer for the opposition because Zanu PF was being insincere.

He went to Kampala, Uganda, on November 21 where he addressed a Commonwealth People’s Forum and appealed to African leaders and the international community to pressure the Zimbabwe government to ensure free and fair presidential, parliamentary and local government elections next year.

Tsvangirai alleged that Zanu PF sponsored violence against opposition forces was escalating in the country.

A day later, he met Mbeki in Harare and repeated the allegations. At the weekend, the former firebrand trade unionist told a rally in Glen Norah that that the Sadc initiated talks were mere “paper discussions.”

Tsvangirai reportedly said: “We thought we were negotiating for free and fair elections and a new constitution. Yet they (Zanu PF) don’t want a new constitution. The question that confronts us today is: ‘What is in the talks for us’?”

Sources in the party said there was pressure on Tsvangirai to abandon the talks on allegations that Zanu PF was unleashing violence on opposition and civic leaders and activists, and that the ruling party was unfairly distributing food relief.

However, Biti this week said his party would not pull out of the talks despite the MDC’s concerns.

“We are not pulling out of the talks. Why should we? He (Tsvangirai) was just telling people certain things that we expect from the talks,” Biti was quoted saying.

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