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Zimbabwe Government, Opposition Talks Receive a Boost


Negotiations between Zimbabwe’s government and main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) received a significant boost after the Irish prime minister expressed confidence in the talks. Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said he hopes the Southern African Development Community (SADC)-backed talks, which aimed at resolving the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe would yield positive results ahead of this year’s general elections.

However, the opposition MDC says it will not participate in this year’s elections if its demand for the newly drafted constitution to be implemented before the elections is not met. But President Robert Mugabe government says the new constitution would only be implemented after the elections.

John Makumbe is a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe. He tells reporter Peter Clottey he would be surprised if the talks reached a compromise.

"It depends really on what they have agreed on in Pretoria (Tshwane) right now because the two major contentions are whether to have the transitional constitution before or after the election. And whether to have the election in March or later like in May or June, and if those issues are agreed upon they will have a very significant impact on the success of the talks,” Makumbe said.

He said although a compromise in the SADC-backed talks between the government and the opposition would be difficult, he hopes for a resolution in the talks.

“I think it’s virtually impossible to have a compromise on the constitution because the MDC knows that if they have these elections under the current constitution they will receive basically more or less the same results as in the past 10 years. And by the way the current constitution enables ZANU-PF (Ruling party) and Mugabe to manipulate the results and to steal the results. And so a compromise will really have to be found, but I don’t see how a compromise can be found with regards to the transitional constitution, and so the giver there would have to be the ZANU-PF,” he noted.

Makumbe hinted that South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki who is also the mediator of the talks between the Zimbabwe government and the MDC would have to find a solution to the crisis if he wants to leave a good legacy.

“I think Thabo Mbeki is fighting for his dear life after losing the presidency of the ANC (South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party) to Jacob Zuma. He needs something to really come out of the Zimbabwe mediation process as an achievement. And I think he will push heaven and earth to get some agreement between the MDC and ZANU-PF in order to have any political credibility at all, even in the region,” Makumbe pointed out.

He reckoned that the main opposition MDC might boycott this year’s elections if its demands are not met.

“I think so yes. I think Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC leader) is really actually stated publicly here in Zimbabwe at political rallies that we will not be used by Mugabe and ZANU-PF to legitimize the regime by participating in a sham election. And he defined sham elections as any election that is run currently under Lancaster House Constitution, which has been amended 18 times,” he said.