Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and the leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai will meet today (Thursday) in the capital Harare as part of peace negotiations between the government and the opposition. This comes after both the ruling ZANU-PF party and the main opposition MDC Thursday called unanimously for an immediate end to violence. Zimbabweans are reportedly expressing hope that both parties will live up to their word to end the ongoing violence and focus on the suffering of the masses.
The peace negotiations underway in South Africa's capital Pretoria are aimed at ending escalating violence in Zimbabwe rural areas, as well as resolving the country's economic and political crisis. Busani Ncube is the logistics director for the Bulawayo project, a non-governmental organization. From Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's commercial capital, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that Zimbabweans are eager to get a peaceful negotiated settlement.
"It is something very good. Every Zimbabwean wants a negotiated settlement, and if we hear that things are going well at the ongoing meeting in South Africa, and we hear that they are reaching a deal and that they are finalizing one or two things, then it is something good for the people of Zimbabwe. However, let me say that it is too early for us to celebrate because as you know, the talks are secret, so we don't know what is really there. But until then, we are very happy about the process if there is progress," Ncube noted.
He said it was unlikely the call by both parties for an end to escalating violence would translate into an immediate calm in rural areas.
"Remember, they started calling for the end of violence before the signing of the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and they repeated this during the signing of the MOU. But up till now we are still witnessing the violence. So we are not really sure whether the calls will really translate to the end of violence. We have seen violence continue, especially in the rural areas, so we are not really sure whether this is now going to translate into action on the ground," he said.
Ncube said although Zimbabweans are worried about the violence, it was about time they held all the parties accountable to their calls to end violence.
"We have been worried about the state sponsored violence. Of course in some cases, we have seen the opposition retaliating or defending themselves. But it is very clear that the violence mostly coming from a state sponsored, state protected violence so, I think the ZANU-PF or the government should be held accountable now that they are calling for an end to violence. But I hope that translates into action on the ground," Ncube pointed out.
He said both parties see that the way forward to resolving the country's crisis is to be cooperative at the negotiations in South Africa's capital, Pretoria.
"I think I will give the benefit of doubt to both parties, but I think for ZANU-PF, they now know that they have no choice. That if they don't negotiate and agree to some of the demands from the MDC surely, they cannot go it alone. It is very clear and they tried to be arrogant, but now they have no choice than to come and agree on the way forward. And as for the opposition, I think it is very clear that if ZANU-PF and the military are not prepared to respect the will of the people, the only way out is to compromise," he said.
Meanwhile, both the ZANU-PF government and the MDC are reportedly under heavy international pressure, including from within Africa, to resolve a crisis that has ruined an economy once regarded as the breadbasket of Southern Africa.