In Zimbabwe, president Robert Mugabe?s government has been on a collision course with the country's leading opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). But now leading members of the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition are reportedly figuring out an end to the Mugabe era. There are reports of secret meetings between some senior officials of ZANU-PF and the leadership of MDC.

Prof. Eliphas Mukonoweshuro is MDC?s secretary of international affairs. He told VOA reporter Douglas Mpuga in a telephone interview that although he could not confirm the meetings, contacts have been made to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe through dialogue.

 ?I can not confirm that there has been formal contacts between the leadership of MDC and ZANU-PF. However the position of MDC has always been that Zimbabweans must sit around a table and craft out a common future for themselves. ?To that extent there has been informal contacts and we hope in the days, weeks, or months to come there will be formal talks?, he said.

Mr. Mukonoweshuro explained that the talks would be aimed at preparing the ground for crafting the framework that would lead to a new political dispensation.

He said, ?It is a two-way process,? referring to the informal talks.  ?These informal talks are initiated by either ZANU-PF individuals or MDC individuals but I want to emphasize that we are still at the informal stage and no formal talks have actually taken place yet.?

Mukonoweshuro added, ?talks have been the position of MDC since the year 2000; that in order to ensure a soft landing for this country from the current crisis there is no way out except for Zimbabweans to sit together and throw their ideas in the ?melting pot? and try to distill a way forward for the country.?

 He emphasized that in the talks power sharing would be a secondary issue. ?What is at stake at the moment is the crafting of a new   political dispensation and the only way to do that is through a new constitution that is owned by all the people of Zimbabwe?. 

 Mr. Mukonoweshuro said what is required is an electoral terrain that would be free and fair. ?The goal is one in which fundamental democratic reforms have to be carried out if the outcome of every electoral contest is to be regarded as a legitimate one.? He said it is the position of MDC that it would be pointless to go to any election under the present circumstances.

Last week Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and nearly 50 others were arrested and then allegedly beaten by police. The incident sparked international outcry.

Zimbabwe's leader has come under increasing international criticism for his handling of the economy and for stifling internal opposition.

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