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Zimbabwe Ruling Party Rejects Opposition Demands for Activists Release

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party has rejected demands by the leader of the opposition for the immediate release of opposition activists. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, is demanding the immediate release of all opposition and civic activists before he agrees to the full implementation of the recently signed power sharing agreement. This comes ahead of a possible meeting early next week between Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe. The meeting is a last-ditch effort by the opposition leader to revive the stalled power-sharing agreement that was supposed to lead to the formation of a unity government. Political analyst Glen Mpani tells reporter Peter Clottey that the opposition is within its rights to ask for release of the detainees.

"The demands of Morgan Tsvangirai are in line with what every progressive Zimbabwean is thinking of right now because the charges that the ZANU-PF government has leveled against the MDC activists and the civil society's Jestina Mokoko, who has been arrested, are not new. ZANU-PF has got a history of trumping up charges, creating stories of people plotting coups to overthrow the government as a way of weakening the opposition," Mpani noted.

He said both the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have paid little heed to distress calls of repression allegedly committed by the ruling ZANU-PF government.

"These allegations have been dismissed by SADC, and they have been dismissed externally. And I think for these activists to be continued being detained by ZANU-PF while ZANU-PF is claiming that it is willing to talk to the MDC is in itself pretentious. So for Morgan to demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the activists is one condition that ZANU-PF has to be able to deal with as a sign of showing how sincere they are about the power-sharing agreement," he said.

Mpani said the bone of contention in the current impasse can be easily resolved by ZANU-PF fully implementing the agreement.

"The ball is in the court of ZANU-PF. If you look at the current agreement and to what they have so far agreed on, we see that the balance of distribution is skewed in favor of ZANU-PF… the ball is in the court of the ZANU-PF to either accept or not to accept the concerns of the opposition MDC," Mpani pointed out.

He said the only way the impasse would be surmounted is when ZANU-PF meets MDC concerns and agrees fully to implement the agreement.

"Any opportunity for negotiation should be viewed as an opportunity where the deadlock can be broken. But the deadlock can only be worked through if ZANU-PF accepts that the MDC is an equal partner, and the MDC is not being coerced or been trampled upon by the ruling party. And I think if that approach is taken, then a solution can be found," he said.

Mpani said although the opposition does not have enough leverage within the SADC region, it has a lot of support in Zimbabwe.

"I think the leverage for Morgan Tsvangirai is only immersed in the amount of support that he has within the country. Obviously, he doesn't have enough in the region because the decision by SADC dampens the whole process because SADC gave a decision that outrightly gave support to Mugabe. And even if the issue is taken to the AU (African Union), I don't think they would come up with a different position. So the only place where Tsvangirai has and currently holds now is to say 'if I don't get into this agreement, things are not going to change the economy is going to remain as it is.' People are still going to view Zimbabwe as a state that is repressive and a state where nothing has changed. So that in itself is leverage enough to be able to assist in providing an opportunity in which Mugabe can look at things differently," Mpani noted.

Opposition leader Tsvangirai also accused President Mugabe's government of breaching the power-sharing agreement by abducting and detaining MDC activists. He demanded the unconditional release of party activists before the power-sharing deal can be implemented.

Meanwhile, the presidents of South Africa and Mozambique will meet Zimbabwe political parties on Monday in a new regional push to break the power-sharing deadlock. South Africa's President Kgalema Motlanthe will lead a SADC delegation that includes Mozambique President Armando Guebuza and mediator and former South African President Thabo Mbeki.