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Churches Want End to Mbeki Role in Zim

LOCAL church leaders renewed calls yesterday for former president Thabo Mbeki to step down as the facilitator of the Zimbabwean talks.

The call came a day after Mbeki, President Kgalema Motlanthe, and Mozambican leader Armando Guebuza failed to convince Zimbabwean parties to form a unity government during a meeting in Harare.

In a statement issued after a two-day meeting in Cape Town yesterday, the national church leaders’ consultation said it was time the African Union took over the talks from Mbeki and the Southern African Development Community .

“Zimbabwe has collapsed. Mbeki is compromised and no longer suitable for the mediation process,” said the forum of church leaders.

The meeting was attended by 30 church leaders from Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Dutch Reformed, Lutheran and Rhema denominations.

“SADC and the South African government have failed the people of Zimbabwe and the continent through so-called ‘quiet diplomacy’.

“We respectfully call for the intervention of the AU and the appointment of a new facilitator of the talks in Zimbabwe,” the forum said.

But it is unlikely that Mbeki will be replaced because he is still the SADC’s point-man in the talks.

He is expected to be part of a special SADC meeting next Monday, when yet another attempt is made to get Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to form a unity government.

The negotiations process suffered another blow yesterday when the Zimbabwean parliament failed to amend the country’s constitution in line with the agreement brokered by Mbeki in September last year.

The amendment would have allowed for Tsvangirai to be appointed prime minister.

But the MDC, which is the majority party in parliament, refuses to take up positions in the unity government until outstanding issues between the parties have been resolved.

In its response to the draft agreement submitted by Mbeki and Motlanthe during Monday’s Harare talks, the MDC said: “There are matters that were outstanding on the date of the signing of the agreement as pronounced by the facilitator [Mbeki] in the presence of other SADC heads of state and government present on September 15, 2008.

“Our position on the outstanding issues has been clear and consistent. It is that the inclusive government should only come into being upon the resolution of [those] issues.”

The MDC demanded an equitable distribution of ministerial portfolios, the enactment of a law establishing the National Security Council and appointment of governors and other senior appointments in an equitable fashion.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF proposed that a unity government be immediately formed and that outstanding issued be resolved later.

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