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Zimbabweans Unsure About Peace Negotiations


Zimbabweans are reportedly acting cautiously optimistic about the beginning of a second round of peace negotiations between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in South Africa's capital, Pretoria. The talks, which resumed Sunday after a short break are geared toward finding a lasting solution to resolving Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis. But some Zimbabweans are expressing pessimism, about previous negotiations with President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANUPF party, claiming they have not alleviated the suffering of ordinary people.

They add that what Zimbabweans want is a change in leadership and a transitional government, which would lead to a free and fair vote under a new constitution. Glen Mpani is the regional coordinator for the transitional justice program of the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Zimbabweans are not overly enthusiastic about the talks.

"Zimbabweans are looking at the current talks with cautious optimism. They are very weary of the likely outcome from these negotiations. As you are aware, in 1987, there were negotiations between the ZANU-PF and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People's Union) and the negotiations came up with a unity agreement that basically failed to address the core issues. Basically, the agreement led to the annihilation of the opposition in Matabeleland," Mpani pointed out.

He said Zimbabweans are worried history would repeat itself in future elections.

"Zimbabweans are quite weary that for the MDC to go and negotiate with the ZANU-PF, such a scenario like the previous talks might come out of those negotiations. The second thing is that Zimbabweans are quite cognizant that whatever negotiations take place, their will or their decision in March 29 is non negotiable, which means that the decision that they made that the MDC is the government they would want to be in place needs to be respected in any negotiation process," he said.

Mpani said some Zimbabweans feel disappointed by the international community.

"The fact that the SADC (Southern African Development Community) and the AU (African Union) are monitoring the peace process does not give Zimbabweans confidence, based on the fact that the two bodies have had their credibility eroded to a large extent. The AU's acceptance of Robert Mugabe to go to the AU summit after the African Union and PAN African parliament and SADC had all declared that the election in June were not an expression of the free will of the people of Zimbabwe was an indictment on the AU. It was a sign that the AU body is complicit with Mugabe in terms of subverting the will of the people of Zimbabwe," Mpani pointed out.

He said Zimbabweans feel particularly let down by the African Union and SADC.

"So, there is some hesitance on the part of Zimbabweans to say there is no guarantee that the AU will protect their vote. More importantly, that it was exacerbated by the resolutions that came out advocating for a government of national unity," he said.

Mpani said Zimbabweans overwhelmingly want a change in leadership that would lead to a free and fair election, conducted according to international standards.

"What Zimbabweans want with the ongoing talks is a negotiated settlement that brings back democracy, a Zimbabwe that is able to allow the recovery of the economy within the country. And thirdly and more importantly is, they want the process to guarantee them that if they are to go for an election again, they can get the leadership that they deserve, which means that these negotiations, one should deal with institutional reform deal with the de-politicization of the army, the police, and the militia. These negotiations should deal with the overhaul of the constitution and more importantly lead to a process where we have got a framework which can come up with formulating a base and a foundation that can lead to an election," Mpani pointed out.

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