Some Zimbabweans have described as a façade President Robert Mugabe's offer for peace negotiations with main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). They claimed such a gesture would not help alleviate the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans since the ruling ZANU-PF party had sabotaged previous negotiations aimed at resolving the country's economic and political crisis. Mr. Mugabe made his offer soon after he was sworn in yesterday (Sunday) after winning the country's presidential run-off, which the outside world condemned as a sham. Main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off after accusing the government of sponsoring violence against its supporters to ensure victory. 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 President Mugabe is not trustworthy.
"The reaction from his statement is that of something that is unbelievable, and something that all quarters within Zimbabwe and outside should treat with a lot of suspicion, and there is a lot of insincerity in his comments. Prior to this election the MDC and the international community and regional players within Africa were calling for the run-off to be called off and for him to negotiate, and he basically refused flat out. The question now is what is it that has motivated him now to see the reason that there is need to negotiate? Is it because of his one-man presidential election? I doubt very much his sincerity," Mpani pointed out.
He said President Mugabe's call for negotiations with the opposition is a set up, which would make things difficult for the MDC in the coming months.
"I think any call to negotiation would simply be to try and muzzle and put the MDC into a corner, and come up with an arrangement that is heavily skewed towards ZANU-PF," he said.
Mpani said the ruling party missed the opportunity for negotiations with the opposition to resolve the country's crisis.
"I think the timing for negotiation is long overdue to negotiate. But I think the challenge that is simply there is that if they are going to be negotiating, they (MDC) should not negotiate on the premise of the recently held one-man presidential election because one, it's an illegitimate election that was not free and fair. I think they should negotiate on the premise of the March 29 election, which was basically regarded as a free and fair election. Recognizing this one-man presidential election is basically allowing negotiated process on a baseless foundation, and sooner or later it will implode," Mpani noted.
He said the opposition MDC has few options available to challenge the legitimacy of Mr. Mugabe's presidency.
"It is certain that there is no other option than for the opposition to go back to the people of Zimbabwe because as we can hear now the regional players are all now pushing forward towards recognizing Mugabe as the president. Thabo Mbeki (South Africa's president) is leading that process and I know fully well that because there is no one within the African Union or there is no precedence that has been set before, they are going to push that he (Mugabe) be recognized. And they will like to urge Morgan Tsvangirai to go to a negotiated settlement that is in favor of the ruling party, but what will that bring to the people of Zimbabwe?" he asked.
Mpani said the opposition MDC would be at a disadvantage in any negotiation with the ruing ZANU-PF party.
"We are going to have a latest pact or negotiation that is not going to transform the institutions in Zimbabwe. The police that have been highly politicized, the army and the courts. That is not going to transform the economy within Zimbabwe because Mugabe has got a challenge in terms of challenging those things because they are the ones that have been able to allow him that presidency that he has so he will not disband those. Even if they agree, there is not gong to be any change within Zimbabwe. So, I think he (Tsvangirai) has to go back to the people of Zimbabwe and say what is it that we can be able to do? And I think Zimbabweans need to know that they are their own liberators, despite how difficult the environment is. I think they need to come up with methods and mechanisms to confront the government," Mpani pointed out.