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Zimbabweans Express Disappointment after Opposition Leader Walks Out of Peace Talks

Zimbabweans are reportedly expressing disappointment after the leader of main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai walked out of the ongoing peace negotiations with the ruling ZANU-PF party last night. Tsvangirai reportedly refused to sign an agreement that aims to resolve the ongoing political and economic crisis. Tsvangirai's action follows the refusal of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party to make Tsvangirai the head of government as part of a proposed unity government.

Political observes believe this latest development is a serious setback to plans by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, who is the mediator of the talks, to present a progress report this week to the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Sydney Masamvu is a Zimbabwean with the International Crisis Group. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Harare that President Mbeki should find a common ground to surmount the sticking point of the talks.

"Morgan Tsvangirai has walked out of a meeting in the capital, Harare and has refused to sign for the simple reason that President Robert Mugabe has refused to concede that he (Tsvangirai) becomes the head of government. I think in his report, which Mbeki is supposed to present, should actually say in the very least that the two key players, Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, are not in agreement on those key issues," Masamvu pointed out.

He said there is need for the mediator of the talks to find a common ground to bring the opposing parties together.

"What he (Mbeki) should do is to find out a common ground of how he can move beyond the sticking point and try to reach a compromise between Mugabe and Tsvangirai," he said.

Masamvu said international pressure should be applied to force the two parties to work out the stumbling blocks of the current negotiations.

"I think without a major climb down from Mugabe that he can no longer hold the same powers which he has, and acknowledging the power dynamic or the power consideration that the MDC's Tsvangirai can hold nationally. What is needed is more pressure to come to bear on Mugabe to concede some powers and allow Tsvangirai to be the head of government. The MDC is saying if Mugabe can be the head of state, Tsvangirai should be the head of government, and that should be the baseline of any compromise position," Masamvu noted.

He said Zimbabweans are gravely saddened by the latest development at the talks.

"I can tell you the nation has been enveloped this evening with an air of disappointment that they are actually looking at the economic meltdown, looking at the collapse all over. So Zimbabweans across the political divide have actually vested so much hope in these talks and that it has stalled has become a source of disappointment to Zimbabweans, who are looking for a resolution to the crisis," he said.

Masamvu said the mediator has a Herculean task of bringing back to life the stalled peace talks.

"South Africa's President Mbeki, who has been the facilitator of the talks knows the sticking points and he has to make an open public report to SADC leaders. And over above that, I think he has to find a mechanism to get the two key actors to reach a compromise. I think the current situation is very much retrievable and is actually how the facilitator moves in terms of in terms of bearing pressure on both actors, whichever way to try to compromise, which I think is the best way forward," Masamvu pointed out.

He said main opposition leader should play a significant role in any possible agreement that could be reached at the talks.

"Any agreement which does not take on board Morgan Tsvangirai's group, as far as Zimbabweans are concerned, is by and large null and void. So the issue and the argument that (MDC faction leader Arthur) Mutambara can sign with Mugabe does not at all allow any breakthrough in the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis," he said.