The negotiators are expected to meet again today and on Monday before submitting a report to Zuma on Wednesday. Their meetings will largely determine whether it is sink-or-swim for the fragile inclusive government.
Their meetings follow Zuma’s visit to Harare last week in a bid to inject fresh impetus into the stalled talks.
Diplomatic sources say South Africa and other countries in the region are rapidly losing patience with Zanu PF and the two MDC factions as they push to resolve a decade-long political crisis which has ruined Zimbabwe’s economy and triggered instability at the heart of the region with far-reaching ramifications.
Zanu PF’s politburo on Wednesday agreed that the party was not going to make any concessions until targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his close allies are lifted by the European Union, the United States, Canada and Australia.
The party’s spokesman Rugare Gumbo told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that lobbying against sanctions was not enough and MDC-T has to ensure that all sanctions are lifted if there is going to be any movement on the talks.
“There will not be any movement in as far as the outstanding issues are concerned,” Gumbo said. “We are very clear that we are going to go by the decision of the congress last December that there will not be any concessions until sanctions are lifted. The lifting of sanctions and concessions has to be done concurrently — they must be done simultaneously. It is not just about lobbying. Unless the economic sanctions are lifted, we will stick to our decision. The MDC-T must decide how the sanctions are going to be lifted.”
Asked why Zanu PF was attending the meetings in Nyanga, Gumbo was quick to point out that what he was stating was the party position reaffirmed at the politburo meeting this week and that he could not speak on behalf of the negotiators.
“I am not one of the negotiators. They may conclude but what I am stating is the party position that we agreed on after (Patrick) Chinamasa briefed us on Wednesday.”
MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said these were not fresh negotiations but issues that the parties agreed on when they signed the Global Political Agreement in September 2008.
“We don’t want any concessions. It’s a done deal — what we have to do is to implement what we agreed on — we need to implement a catalogue of what we agreed on. This is a compromised arrangement,” Chamisa said.
“The issue of sanctions is one that will be dealt with if we deal with these issues. All the evils and vices will lift themselves if we implement what we agreed on. It’s a collective effort. It’s not an MDC-T or a Zanu PF issue and can only be done on the basis of implementation of the agreement.”
Chamisa, who represented MDC-T at the meetings with Zuma, said he was shocked by Zanu PF statements because his party had been given the impression by its negotiators that there was going to be some finality to the talks by the March 31 deadline given by Zuma.
“The impression from our colleagues from their body language last week was that we are moving in the same direction in so far as the implementation of the GPA was concerned. This bout of new narratives is something that is baffling us,” Chamisa said.
“Even Zuma went home with the understanding that we were on track on the resolutions but Zanu PF chooses to bicker, parrot, and grandstand while the nation is burning. People are tired and we have squandered people’s goodwill.”
Pretoria is said to be even more concerned because of the forthcoming World Cup in June, besides which Zimbabwe’s failure directly affects it in social and economic terms more than any other country.
Zuma and his government are said to be anxious to ensure there is no political instability on South Africa’s borders during the World Cup. They want to deliver a spectacular event which will leave lasting memories on the world and alleviate stereotypes about Africa as a “dark” and “failed” continent.
Following his visit last week Zuma is said to have been watching closely events in Zimbabwe, particularly the talks, to ensure they do not get derailed at the finishing line.
The stakes are now high since Zuma’s visit. Zuma himself raised expectations last week when he, flanked by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, announced that his visit had produced a “package of measures” to be implemented concurrently.
“I am very encouraged by the spirit of cooperation displayed by the leaders and all the parties,” Zuma said.
“The parties have agreed to a package of measures to be implemented concurrently as per the decision of the Sadc Troika in Maputo.
I believe that the implementation of this package will take the process forward substantially. The leaders have instructed their negotiating teams to attend to all outstanding matters during their deliberations on 25, 26 and 29 March and to report back to the facilitator by the 31st of March.”
Following a Sadc troika meeting in Maputo last November, Tsvangirai suspended his party’s boycott of cabinet. Sadc leaders directed the parties to resume talks and resolve outstanding issues. The talks resumed on November 23 but stalled after the Zanu PF congress in December resolved that the party negotiators would not make any further concessions until the MDC factions removed sanctions and stopped foreign radio broadcasts into Zimbabwe.
Faith Zaba/Dumisani Muleya