Preliminary discussions between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change aimed at paving the way to substantive discussions
about power sharing are expected to begin later this week in Pretoria amid
intense international pressure, government and opposition sources said Wednesday.
A senior government
official told VOA that two days of talks involving the two groupings of
the MDC and the ruling party will begin Thursday and
conclude on Friday.
The same official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
the ZANU-PF politiburo met on Wednesday and gave Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa
and Labor Minister Nicholas Goche a fresh mandate to negotiate on behalf of the party. The two negotiated for ZANU-PF in the South African mediated crisis talks that
dead-ended in January.
Chinamasa told the state-controlled Herald
newspaper that the talks would begin this week. The ZANU-PF politburo instructed
Chinamasa and Goche to seek a compromise as quickly as possible due to the
intense world pressure on Harare since Mr. Mugabe claimed victory
in the June 27 run-off election though he was the only active
candidate following the withdrawal of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and was inaugurated just two days later.
Sources in Pretoria confirmed the crisis talks will resume on Thursday
and that the parties will also look at a draft proposal from South African President Thabo Mbeki,
mediator in the crisis on behalf of the Southern African Development Community
since March 2007.
The draft proposes a government of national unity that would leave Mr. Mugabe as president while installing Tsvangirai as
prime minister. The secretaries general of the two MDC formations – Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube – will represent the opposition.
In a related development, Biti's passport was returned to him on Wednesday by the high court, to which he surrendered the document after he was charged with treason last month following
his return to Zimbabwe from Johannesburg, South Africa.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa
of Tsvangirai’s MDC formation told reporter Blessing Zulu that the this week's consultations will pave
the way for substantive talks.
Meanwhile, Harare has dispatched ministers to various
countries to lobby members of the United Nations Security Council in the aim of
blocking a United States-sponsored resolution to increase sanctions on President Mugabe and members of his inner circle.
Countries being lobbied
include big powers Russia and China, as well as Panama, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Libya.
France’s U.N. ambassador said on Tuesday that the resolution’s sponsors had lined up the nine votes needed to
push the resolution to a vote of the Council’s permanent members.
Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, that Harare
is ready to form a national unity government.
Some skeptical observers say such assertions are
being made in hopes they will prevent the U.N. Security Council from reaching a consensus on Zimbabwe sanctions.
The proposed U.N. sanctions include an international arms embargo and a freeze on the personal
assets of Mugabe and 13 other officials the U.S. says were behind political violence that surged in the wake of March 29 general elections and continues
to the present day.
U.N. spokesman Yves Sokorobi told VOA that the resolution
will come to a vote this week, but no firm date has been set for that exercise.
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania briefed
the Security Council Tuesday on the recent African Union summit in Egypt. She said the UN supports the mediation efforts by African regional groups.
Zimbabwe's U.N. ambassador, Boniface Chidyausiku, told reporter Zulu that the sanctions are not justified as Zimbabwe poses no threat to
But independent political analyst Chris Maroleng in Pretoria told reporter Zulu that the sanctions
resolution is essential to prod Mr Mugabe to change course.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...