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Zimbabweans Anxious About Their Future as Summit Convenes in South Africa


On the eve of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in South Africa, President Robert Mugabe banned a first Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)party rally Sunday. Many people in the streets around the capital city, mostly MDC supporters, hope that their leader Morgan Tsvangirai will be able to join a unity government.

Many people in the dormitory town Chitungwisa, on the southern edge of Harare, did not know the MDC rally had been planned for Sunday. Their leader Morgan Tsvangirai had already left for South Africa to attend the SADC summit on the Zimbabwe crisis.

The summit will decide, one way or another, whether an inclusive government is possible. Mr Tsvangirai says there are still outstanding matters.

However many people are anxious for him to join the government, for a variety of reasons.

A 45-year-old small street shop owner in Chitungwisa did not know a rally had been planned, nor that it was banned but he still wants Mr Tsvangirai to join the government.

"He should sign, yes, becasue it will be to his advantage," said the shopkeeper. "He will be incorporated in the new government rather than remaining a mere opposition leader. It will be a new horizon for the people of Zimabwbe.

He said many people were tired of the political tension whch has continued for the last eight years between the Zanu PF party of President Robert Mugabe and the MDC, led by Mr. Tsvangirai.

"It will reduce political tension between Zanu PF and MDC because Tsvangirai will become the prime minister and obviously the prime minister is a respected person and the president is a respected person and the other people in cabinet are aslo respected people so it will reduce tension," he said.

A 38-year-old nurse and mother agreed. She is worried about schools opening Tuesday. The opening was delayed by two weeks because the state could not get last year's examination results marked.

"Yes I think he should definitely sign," she said. "Because the talks have waited long enough and we need the two parties to agree so that the country can move forward. I think forming the government would speed up the education sector because schools are about to be oepened and I think he should go on and sign and get into government."

She said many people feared that if there was no inclusive government Mr Mugabe would form his own, and then call elections. The MDC has a one seat parliamentary majority but Mr Tsvangirai beat Mr Mugabe in the first round of the election last March, but dropped out of the run-off citing violence against his supporters which left more than 150 dead.

She said if the MDC had to face fresh elections, this would cause people problems.

"That is quite tricky considering that we have people's lives at stake because there was a lot of battering last year in June and the climate has not yet recovered so I think it will take a couple of years," said the nurse.

However a 70-year-old retired headmaster, now living in Chitungwisa believes Mr Tsvangirai is not being offered enough power in an inlcusive government and should stay out until he has equal power with Mr Mugabe.

"I don't think that Mr Morgan Tsvangirai should sign unless the opposite side agrees to his demands because sharing you have to share equally," said the headmaster.

He said even though the power sharing negotiations, which followed a political agreement last September, had gone on for a long time and that people's expectations are high, Mr Tsvangirai should not accept second best.

"High time or no high time this is a deal which calls for equal sharing," he said. "How can he join when one does it on his own and he is being taken like a passenger in the train which doesn't make sense? That's the way I see it."

On several commuter buses around the city all passengers from various walks of life condemened Mr Mugabe's rule which they say had ruined their lives.

None could say what the MDC could or should do if it didn't join an inclusive government.

Zimabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said last Friday that Mr Tsvangirai had no choice but to join the inclusive government as the MDC did not have an alternative strategy.

Cholera deaths are now almost 3,000, close to an African record, with more than 50,000 infected.

Most parents say they expect teachers will not turn up for school Tuesday becase they do not have enough money from their salary, still paid in Zimbabwe dollars, to get to work.

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