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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader to Meet President Mugabe Monday


Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is expected to meet the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai Monday, a move believed to be a last ditch effort to revive the full implementation of the stalled power- sharing agreement. The agreement, signed last September, was aimed at forming a unity government to resolve Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis. It stalled after the opposition accused President Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party of refusing to equitably share cabinet posts. George Mkwananzi is a political analyst. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Zimbabweans are hopeful today's meeting would mark a path towards the resolution of the country's crisis.

"I'm sure it would become a huge relief to most Zimbabweans who were beginning to be distressed by the absence of their leader. And it would inject some new wave of enthusiasm and optimism in the deal being made to work," Mkwananzi noted.

He said President Mugabe's threat Sunday to break up the talks if the opposition fails to accept a deal could potentially undermine any possible compromise to form a unity government and resolve Zimbabwe's economic malaise.

"It is a very unfortunate statement to come from President Mugabe because it is already pre-empting whatever goodwill Morgan Tsvangirai might have come with from a long absence outside the country because it would mean that whatever might have been the cause for the failure of the deal to be concluded still remains as a sticking issue. So, it casts a whole shadow of pessimism on the possibility of this deal ever being consummated," he said.

Mkwananzi described as a reality the opposition demands for all outstanding issues that had hindered the full implementation of the power sharing agreement to be resolved before it agrees to be part of a unity government.

"In fact as any negotiator or anyone involved in a process of bargaining, it is important that you get those things that are likely to bother you sorted out before you enter into any union. So, I think the MDC is being pragmatic about the possibility of just walking into that arrangement without clarifying certain things and then discovering that they have been cheated. When they are inside it would be difficult to go out because it would cause them to lose credibility. So, I think they (MDC) are on the right path from declaring right from the outset that they would want certain things to be clarified before they go in," Mkwananzi pointed out.

He said the hope of Monday's talks would hinge on the concession the ruling party would be willing to make.

"As to the question of whether Zimbabweans would have a hope out of this process, it would depend on how much ZANU-PF is prepared to concede. They are very much aware of those things that caused the stalemate and the break off in the process of negotiation and the consummation of this deal. And we hope that the naked gestures that we have seen of retiring or asking certain people of stepping down from cabinet as a way of making way to the MDC extend beyond that cosmetic gesture. And it would go as far as accommodating those things that they had always wanted to be clarified," he said.

Mkwananzi said it remains to be seen what would come out of the current negotiations between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC.

"I don't think there is anything special about the talks. As far as I'm concerned, I have always maintained that in a situation where two belligerents are engaged in a fight like this so long as you don't get one humble enough to start taking the other seriously, you would continue to have such kind of abortive attempts to have a government of national unity," Mkwananzi noted.

Meanwhile, Monday's peace negotiations would also include the presidents of South Africa and Mozambique and regional mediator and former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Zimbabwe President Mugabe reportedly said he is giving main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai one last chance to join a national unity government. The embattled President added that he is not prepared to make any further concessions with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. He said the opposition to either accept the power sharing deal or break from it.

Under the power-sharing accord signed last September, Mugabe would remain president, while MDC leader Tsvangirai would become prime minister and nearly all major Cabinet ministries would go to Mugabe's party. But Tsvangirai has said he would not allow himself to be bulldozed into joining a lopsided government, after winning the first round of presidential elections in March but pulling out of the runoff because of violence against his supporters.


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