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Zimbabwe's MDC Opposition Denies Dialogue with Ruling ZANU-PF - 2003-07-09

The leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has emphatically declared that his group is not engaged in political dialogue with the ruling ZANU-PF party. Mr. Tsvangirai was reacting to statements by South African President Thabo Mbeki that political contacts between the two parties in Zimbabwe are taking place.

The opposition leader said President Mbeki is mischievous and partisan in telling the world that political talks are going on between the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC.

Mr. Mbeki has made this claim several times lately. In remarks to South African radio Tuesday, he said that Zimbabwe's opposition and ruling party were talking and he expressed his confidence they would find a political solution to their country's problems. Mr. Mbeki added that he intended to give that message to President Bush during his visit to South Africa.

However, Mr. Tsvangirai insists no political talks are under way. He said all efforts at contact with ZANU-PF have failed because the ruling party remains inflexible and is continuing with its campaign of political repression.

The MDC leader said several well meaning groups have tried to start a process of dialogue, but he said they have been frustrated by ZANU-PF.

Ruling party spokesmen had switched off their telephones Wednesday, but they are not on record as claiming that any process of dialogue had begun.

The MDC has sent two members of parliament to South Africa to tell President Bush that there is no progress toward any settlement of Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

On Tuesday, the Commercial Farmers Union issued a rare statement saying that more than 20 of its members are in the process of being evicted from their properties. Several more have received eviction notices. This is happening more than six months after President Mugabe said the land reform program had ended.

The World Food Program said Wednesday that the Zimbabwe government has still not answered its request to tell the organization how much food it needs.

The U.N. food agency says its stocks of food in Zimbabwe will run out at the end of August. It says it will take three months from the date the government informs it of its needs before the next food shipments can be delivered.

The WFP said donors will not provide money until the agency receives information from the Zimbabwe government.

That means, a U.N. official said, that there will be a gap in food supplies that will inevitably lead to starvation for many people in the next few months.

In the last year, the WFP and other donors have provided food for more than five million people in Zimbabwe.