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Zimbabwe Opposition Committed to Ongoing Peace Negotiations

Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it is committed to the ongoing peace negotiations between the opposition and the ruling ZANU-PF party despite a reported stalemate at the talks in South Africa. The talks, which are aimed at resolving Zimbabwe's political and economic crises, continue in South Africa today (Monday). South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki who is mediating the talks said despite setbacks, leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will continue to help with the discussions.

Some political analysts are criticizing the regional body for not doing enough to help resolve the Zimbabwe's crisis. Glen Mpani is the regional coordinator for the transitional justice program of the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Cape Town South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the sticking point of the talks has always been power sharing.

"What is important is to look at that issue that has caused the mediation process appears as if it has slowed. It has to do with the major issue that has to do with the distribution of power between the expected role of Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and that of Mugabe as the president. For the MDC, I think what they would not want to do is get into any government where they don't have any meaningful power and more importantly what the MDC would not want to do is to renege on the core issue that they've been fighting for that is a new constitution. And also ensure that whatever drives the process is based on the victory that they (MDC) got in March," Mpani noted.

He said the ruling ZANU-PF would prefer to hang on to power as long as it could.

"On the part of the ZANU-PF, I think they are also negotiating from a position where they would not cede too much power. And secondly they would also want to buy time in terms of ensuring that they can work on the ground in terms of getting enough support. I don't think ZANU-PF would want to go for an election very soon. They want to give themselves time and allow the economy to recover," he said.

Mpani said both opposing parties at the ongoing talks are entrenched in their positions.

"As far as we have seen, I think there is some evidence of commitment they might be going into it for different reasons. The MDC might be going into the talks for the reasons that they have a mandate and there are people who are supporting them in terms of finding a solution. And for ZANU-PF, they might be going in because they are legitimacy is under threat or their legitimacy might be quite problematic," Mpani pointed out.

He said any failure of the ongoing peace negotiations would reflect badly on the regional body, SADC.

"The implications of the failure of these talks are that one it shows SADC these issues should have been resolved a long time ago. And where they are now is that they have reached a crisis point and they see the Zimbabwe problem is likely to threaten SADC as a regional body based on the criticism from Zambia and the boycott of the meeting by Botswana. I think that in itself is a signal that the future of the body is really threatened, and for them (SADC) they would want to maintain that unity. And if that is to be resolved, they need to find a solution to the Zimbabwe problem as soon as possible," he said.

Mpani said South African President Mbeki could leave a legacy of bringing both the ruling ZANU-PF and main opposition MDC together to find ways of resolving Zimbabwe's crisis.

"I think Thabo Mbeki can boast that he has been able to one at least bring Tsvangirai and Mugabe to a negotiating table. The second thing that he might boast of is that the achievement that he has been able to get in the negotiating process at least for them to be committed to the process, signing the memorandum of understanding and going through a process of negotiating. But I think for his legacy, one of the things that is going to continue to daunt him is the fact that this agreement is coming rather too late," Mpani noted.