Despite reports that the ruling and opposition parties in
Zimbabwe were expected to issue a memorandum of understanding (MOU) Wednesday,
that is not likely to happen.
ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition MDC are trying to negotiate, following
the recent disputed and controversial presidential run-off election. In the meantime, the United States and other
countries are considering further sanctions against the government of President
Robert Mugabe. The election has been widely criticized as being a sham.
reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke
with English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why a memorandum of
understanding would not be issued Wednesday.
think essentially because the MDC is still undecided about what it wants to be
included in the MOU. I think it's also undecided about whether in fact it
really wants an MOU or not and how that will affect its status in terms of
talks," she says.
MDC members are discussing the issue. "The MDC has been meeting for a couple of
days now and they continue in meetings today about the MOU and how to proceed
from here. I think there's some disagreement within the MDC itself,
particularly the Morgan Tsvangirai formation of the MDC, which is the largest
formation of that party, about what the MOU should include; and also about who
should be playing what role in negotiations. There may be some dissatisfaction
with how they've been handled up till now by the (party's) secretary-general
Tendai Biti," she says.
Mr. Mugabe claimed victory in the disputed runoff and was sworn in to a sixth
term in office, what leverage does the MDC really have? Robertson says, "I
think the leverage that they have is essentially that in order to be able to
govern – because the MDC won the most votes in parliament and almost a majority
in the senate – that the ruling party would need the MDC in order to proceed
further. And also because Mr. Mugabe is very anxious that sanctions are not
increased against him and senior people in his party. And so, in order to
prevent that from happening he needs some sort of agreement."
last time MDC and ZANU-PF officials met was last week in South Africa. "They
met in preliminary talks to determine how the talks would proceed," she says.
African President Thabo Mbeki had been appointed by SADC, the Southern African
Development Community, to mediate Zimbabwe's political crisis. Many have
criticized his quiet diplomacy for failing to bring political change.
(Mbeki) convened the talks last week. Those talks continue to be facilitated by
senior members of his government. And it is my understanding that be popped in
a few times to meet with the delegates. So, yes, indeed he continues to play a
role. And in fact some of the objections expressed by Mr. Tsvangirai and others
as a reason for delaying the signing of an MOU until a second mediator has been
appointed to work along side of him may in fact be somewhat of a cover by the
MDC to disguise it's own uncertainties within its own ranks," she says.
Robertson says that the MDC would like
a second mediator to come from the African Union (AU), thus expanding mediation
efforts beyond SADC. "However, as we know, when the AU met they essentially
handed the ball back to SADC and said SADC will continue with its efforts to
resolve the situation in Zimbabwe, the crisis there," she says.