Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and two senior
members of his party were temporarily prevented from traveling to South
Africa Thursday when Zimbabwe officials confiscated their passports and
then returned them. Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare that
Tsvangirai is expected to address a regional summit in South Africa
Immigration officials confiscated
passports from the opposition party's Morgan Tsvangirai, party
secretary-general Tendai Biti and legislator Elphas Mukonoweshoro at
Harare International Airport. However, Movement for Democratic Change
official Nqobizitha Mlilo said the passports were returned to the three
men after a brief delay.
They were due to travel to South
Africa for last minute negotiations Friday ahead of the summit of the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) which Tsvangirai was
scheduled to address on Saturday. The main topic of the meeting was
expected to be the political crisis in Zimbabwe.
the first round of Zimbabwe's presidential election in March, but not
by a clear majority. He pulled out of a June run-off citing a campaign
of violence against his supporters. In parliamentary elections, his
party took 100 seats, and the ruling ZANU-PF 99 seats.
the senior MDC negotiator at the talks between the opposition and
ZANU-PF. The talks are being negotiated by SADC-appointed mediator
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. Biti, at the time of the
passport confiscation, said he believed this latest development is a
message from Mr. Mugabe that he is not interested in a negotiated
"I think they [the Zimbabwe government] are sending
a clear and unambiguous and unequivocal message to President Mbeki, to
SADC, to the African Union, to the United Nations and everyone else,
that look you people are forcing us dialogue with the MDC, but we are
not interested. We are thugs, we are hooligans, we are fascists, and
therefore stop, leave us alone, we have obtained a mandate on the 27th
of June, and that is it. Don't bother us," he said.
Biti has little faith that SADC will be able to help bring about a successful outcome to the negotiations.
I think as usual you will see a paralyzed SADC that will be a victim of
its own inaction, and [incapacity] to understand the extent of the
madness, the fascism that they are dealing with. So it's almost history
replaying itself over and over again," he said.
The talks between Tsvangirai, Mugabe and smaller MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara stalled on Tuesday night.
These talks followed two weeks of negotiations between the three parties representatives in South Africa.
talks are in response to a memorandum of understanding signed by the
three leaders on July 21, which had a mandate to negotiate a power
sharing agreement between MDC and ZANU-PF.
The details of what has been negotiated and agreed to have been kept secret.
Thursday, the state controlled Herald newspaper published a front page
story claiming Tendai Biti has signed off on a number of issues, which
the newspaper said were re-introduced by Tsvangirai during negotiations
between him and Mr. Mugabe in Harare.
Earlier this week,
officials within Mr. Mugabe's party told news agencies and The Herald
that Mr. Mugabe had cut a separate deal with a splinter opposition
faction that controls enough votes in Parliament to potentially swing
the majority his way.
Arthur Mutambara, the faction leader
with whom Mr. Mugabe had reportedly signed the deal, denied any such
arrangement on Wednesday.