There are reports that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will hold new round of talks this week in South Africa. This was revealed Wednesday by the lawyer for MDC secretary general Tendai Biti during a court hearing in Harare to seek the return of Biti’s passport.
Earlier this week, Zimbabwe Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said President Mugabe was ready to form a unity government. But he did not say what role MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would play in such government.
The proposed talks come on the heel of the recent African Union summit calling on both the Zimbabwe government and the opposition MDC to form a unity government. Herman
Hanekom is a current affairs specialist with the Africa Institute of South Africa. He told VOA the talks, if held, would be a continuation of the old, failed talks.
“The information as I had it about four hours ago is that Tendai Biti, upon court order, in Harare, Zimbabwe has been given back his passport and his bail conditions were amended to allow him to attend these talks if they do take place in South Africa this coming week. Now these talks are not, as far as I’m concerned, new talks. It’s merely a continuation of talks that got took place between the MDC and ZANU-PF prior to the election under the auspices of President Thabo Mbeki,” he said.
The proposed talks come on the heel of the recent African Union summit in Egypt calling on both the Zimbabwe government and the opposition MDC to form a unity government.
Hanekom said the proposed talks are not a new mandate for South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate that talks aimed at ending Zimbabwe’s political crisis.
He described as flowery language comments earlier this week by Zimbabwe Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi that President Mugabe was ready to form a unity government with the opposition.
“Absolutely flowery language! Formation of a unity government under whose leadership, Mugabe’s? Big question mark! How legitimate he is. There was no mention by the Zimbabwe foreign minister, who incidentally I think is illegal at the moment as his function stopped on the 29th of March. But nevertheless he did not say what kind of role Mugabe is prepared to cede to Morgan Tsvangirai in such unity government. So let there be no optimism unless there’s clarity on that on what Mr. Tsvangirai’s role will be,” Hanekom said.
Reacting to the Sham el-Sheikh African Union summit recommendation for a unity government in Zimbabwe, MDC leader Tsvangirai reportedly said he wanted to see either United Nations or African Union observers at any future talks.
Hanekom said it is important for the MDC to have faith in any South Africa mediated talks.
“What is a very important issue in the entire fiasco that is taking place at the moment, to what degree will the MDC have faith in the South Africa mediation without a representative of the African Union present as they have clearly indicated after Sham el-Sheikh that they are prepared to continue with Thabo Mbeki as the mediator but they do want another party present that is not attached to South Africa at all but to the African Union. And that is another key issue because the past has proven time and again that from the mediator side certain things were said that later were proved not to have been true,” Hanekom said.
He said the fact that MDC secretary general Tendai Biti was given his passport indicates that not all judges in Zimbabwe are politicized as the police and military are politicized.