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Zimbabwe Government Spokesman Rejects Political Opening

A spokesman for the government of President Robert Mugabe has declared that talks with the opposition are not on the agenda so far as it is concerned, despite comments from a senior South African official who says there are indeed conditions that Harare must meet to obtain the financial bailout it is requesting from Pretoria.

South African Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad said the pending loan is predicated on “a common approach involving the Zimbabwean private sector and political parties.” Mr. Pahad emphasized that Pretoria’s overarching concern was to prevent the already-collapsing Zimbabwean economy from imploding with all of the consequences that would entail for South Africa and the region.

In Harare, Acting Information Minister Chen Chimutengwende told the government-controlled Herald newspaper that the government did not envision opening talks or negotiations with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reached Mr. Chimutengwende and asked for clarification of his remarks published Tuesday in the Herald.

President Mugabe’s adamant opposition to dialogue with the leading opposition party is perceived by some international observers as a stalling tactic.

Political analyst Princeton Lyman, director of Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria, said Mr. Mugabe ultimately has little choice but to accede to Pretoria’s demands.

Zimbabwean political analyst John Makumbe, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the Mugabe government is increasingly isolated.

But Dr. Makumbe said he believed Mugabe would go to any length rather than give in to pressure from the African Union and others to open talks with the opposition.

Residents of Harare, meanwhile, expressed the hope that Zimbabwe’s main political parties – the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front or ZANU-PF, and the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, would pursue a healing dialogue.

Correspondent David Mutomba in Harare heard from ordinary citizens that they see inter-party discussions as the only way out of the long-running national crisis.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...