South Africa?s President Thabo Mbeki is expected to present a progress report today (Thursday) to leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who are meeting in the Zambian capital Lusaka.  Mbeki was mandated by SADC to mediate between Zimbabwe?s ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to resolve the political impasse in the country.  But Mbeki?s report is likely to come under intense scrutiny after Zimbabwe?s justice minister Patrick Chinamasa dismissed the suggestion his government might open dialogue with opposition groups who he accused of carrying out violent acts against innocent civilians in an attempt to seize power.

Nelson Chamisa is the spokesman for the opposition MDC. From the capital, Harare he tells reporter Peter Clottey that Chinamasa?s allegation is unfounded.

?Very unfortunate statement particularly coming from a person who is supposed to be minister of justice. In fact, we just view that as mere bickering and parroting by a regime and a government, which has misplaced its priorities, which has lost focus of what the people?s aspirations are. Zimbabweans are asking for a solution; Zimbabweans are looking for the resolution of the crisis in the country. The meltdown continues to take its toll particularly on the poor, on the downtrodden and the impoverished in our society. That is why they are flocking to the neighboring countries,? Chamisa said.

He described the crisis Zimbabweans are facing as a tragedy.

?It?s a real catastrophe; it?s a humanitarian disaster. We need to make sure that we open to all possibilities of resolving the crisis, and definitely political dialogue is one of the important elements to the unlocking of the crisis,? he noted.

Chamisa said the opposition MDC is willing to see the political impasse between it and the ruling ZANU-PF party amicably resolved.

?As the MDC, we are firmly committed to the resolution of the crisis, and we don?t want to let down the initiative by the entire region through President Mbeki?s leadership. We cannot afford any day longer of bickering, any day longer of denial, and any day longer of finger pointing like what this regime is doing. Pointing fingers at the opposition is not going to help because that would not take away the crisis. The crisis is a crisis of governance, and those who are responsible unfortunately, are not owning up, and that is what they have to,? Chamisa pointed out.

He said the ZANU-PF government is playing games with the crisis in the country.

?That is precisely their game. They would want to play popcorn type of politics where they are drumming up their own support?and what they do is that they create shadow enemies, and they would obviously portray to the whole world that they are under siege. But they are in fact the problem?it?s a way of trying to locate exit points of the crisis, but at the end of the day the truth is always evident to testify for itself. You know that the violence we have in this country is state sponsored. The people who have been petrol bombed were petrol bombed by people who form the state, state agents,? he noted.