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Zimbabweans Fear Opposition Betrayal at Ongoing Peace Talks


Some Zimbabweans are reportedly worried the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) might betray ordinary masses at ongoing peace negotiations. They say reports of regional and international pressure being brought bear on the MDC to make significant concessions at the talks would weaken the opposition. They say their fears were confirmed after a faction of the MDC claimed the outcome of the peace negotiations might not necessarily be the best, but that it would good for the interim as the opposing factions find ways of solving the ongoing economic and political crisis.

Meanwhile South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki met Sunday with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai amidst reports of an imminent power sharing deal. 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 the negotiations seem to have lost focus.

"Without any tangible information coming out of the negotiations, which have been shrouded in secrecy, it is very difficult for Zimbabweans to be optimistic that the current negotiations will yield anything for them because what they are looking at is the characters and the true record of the two political parties. Zimbabweans have experienced previous unity agreements before, and they have seen the level of intransigence particularly on the part of the ZANU-PF, and they are quite doubtful that anything is going to come out of these negotiations," Mpani pointed out.

He said although Zimbabweans are doubtful of a solution that could be found at the talks, they are hopeful of an end to ongoing violence in the rural areas.

"Because of the level of suffering in the country Zimbabweans would want a solution to come out of it. That is why they are waiting anxiously for it," he said.

Mpani concurs that the main objective of the negotiations between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition has been sidestepped.

"They are quite right because over the last one and a half weeks, the focus of the negotiations have been to say what is going to be Mugabe's role, what is going to be Tsvangirai's role. How long is going to be the transition or the government of national unity? And I think the most important thing in these negotiations is to say who has got the mandate to be leading this process, and what are the issues to be tackled? What are we going to do with the perpetrators of violence? Are we going to grant them amnesty or is there going to be justice or what is going to be the framework of the transitional arrangement? So, all those issues have not been teased out," Mpani noted.

He said the political parties might come up with an arrangement at the talks that would only beneficial to their course, but not that of the suffering masses.

"I'm now worried that we are now having political parties coming up with a deal that might be in their best interest, and leaving behind the people of Zimbabwe, who should be major beneficiaries of it," he said.

Mpani said the main opposition is under strain to make significant concessions that could weaken its position in future engagements.

"I think the MDC is under immense pressure because if you look at what has been going on where the media has been talking about say there are very few issues that have been left under the current negotiations they are about to sign. One of the pressures is coming from South African President Thabo Mbeki who is going to be taking on the chairpersonship of SADC (Southern African Development Community) this week. He would want to go to SADC with a deal to show that the negotiations of Zimbabwe has worked," Mpani pointed out.

He said a division in the opposition could be an inhibitor of the negotiating power that the MDC possesses at the talks.

"The second thing that we have is that we have got the Mutambara formation. The Mutambara formation has positioned itself as an interesting part in the sense that it has been quite malleable in inclining itself to the mediator and to ZANU-PF. And if you read what the leader of the Mutambara faction wrote today articulating the position that they would want a framework that is Zimbabwean in nature, despite the fact that it might impact, but it should be acceptable in the interim. So, there is already some position of conceding quite a number of issues. And I think despite the amount of support that the MDC has, I don't think they are in a position under the current circumstances to be able to say we are pulling out of this deal other than them being subjected to the fact that they are pandering to the whims of the west," he said.

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