Consultations to conclude Zimbabweâ€™s stalled talks for a negotiated political settlement commence today in Pretoria, amid reports that South African President Thabo Mbeki may press MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to sign a proposed deal endorsed by Sadc a fortnight ago.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that Mbeki called for the consultative meeting after the gulf between Zanu PF and the MDC-Tsvangirai widened on Tuesday when parliament was convened and President Robert Mugabe was heckled by MDC members of parliament during his address.
Tsvangirai said the convening of parliament by Mugabe was against the provisions of the memorandum of understanding signed on July 21 by political parties engaged in the negotiations.
MDC-Tsvangirai negotiators Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma and Mutambara factionâ€™s Priscillah Misihairambwi-Mushonga flew into South Africa on Wednesday and Zanu PFâ€™s Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche left yesterday. Welshman Ncube (Mutambara camp) is leaving today.
“It is going to be a consultative meeting,” one of the sources said. “We expect Mbeki to ask Tsvangirai when he is going to sign the proposed deal, which was endorsed by Sadc at its recent summit.”
The sources said it was “likely” that Tsvangirai would be given a deadline to sign. Two weeks ago Tsvangirai refused to sign the final of a series of documents so far agreed to, saying he needed time to reflect. He has insisted that the talks were not dead.
However, a source this week declared: “Negotiations have already ended. It is either Tsvangirai signs or not. In Mbekiâ€™s view, there is no outstanding issue to discuss. This applies to Mugabe also.”
But other sources said Mbeki might be forced to seek the re-opening of negotiations after Tsvangiraiâ€™s MDC on Monday won the post of Speaker and effectively took control of parliament.
“The MDC victory in parliament gives them leeway to demand more power in an inclusive government,” one of the sources said.
The sources said Mbeki would not want the talks to collapse as he “understands gravity of the consequences South Africa” and other Sadc countries would face.
There has been an influx of Zimbabweans in South Africa, Botswana and other neighbouring countries escaping the decade-long political and economic crisis.
The talks between Zanu PF and the two MDCs stalled three weeks ago after Mugabe and Tsvangirai failed to agree on the powers each should wield as president and prime minister respectively.
Tsvangirai reportedly wanted a transfer of power to him as executive prime minister rather than share power with Mugabe whom he says should become a ceremonial president.
Sadc heads of state and government met in South Africa two weeks ago and urged Tsvangirai to sign all “outstanding agreementsâ€ to pave way for an inclusive government.
The regional bloc recommended the convening of parliament.
Political analysts said Sadcâ€™s recommendation was meant to put pressure on Tsvangirai to sign the deal, but this has not happened, forcing Mbeki to call for todayâ€™s meeting to find a way forward.
Doubts abound that Zanu PF was no longer interested in the talks after Mugabe on Tuesday said he was in the process of forming a new cabinet.
Mugabe has already appointed 10 provincial governors and three non-constituency senators â€“â€“ positions that were on the talks agenda and were expected to be distributed between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations.
The move by Mugabe to appoint a new cabinet before power-sharing talks have been concluded did not go well with the Tsvangirai camp, which said this would be a â€œdeclaration of warâ€ against the people.
Nelson Chamisa, the spokesperson of the MDC-Tsvangirai, said Mugabe wanted to â€œhijack the leadershipâ€ of Zimbabwe by naming a new cabinet.
By Constantine Chimakure