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South Africa's Mbeki Holds Harare Talks Seeking Power-Sharing Deal

  • Jonga Kandemiiri

South African President Thabo Mbeki traveled Wednesday to Harare and held meetings with President Robert Mugabe and opposition formation leader Arthur Mutambara in a bid to break an impasse in power-sharing talks over the allocation of positions in a unity government.

Mr. Mbeki had already met with Movement for Democratic Change founding president Morgan Tsvangirai, who flew to Pretoria following the breakdown in the talks.

Pretoria sources maintained that Mr. Mbeki went to Harare simply to tie up loose ends so that a deal could be announced within days. Mbeki himself said the talks have been adjourned for a few days to allow negotiators for Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and for both groupings of the MDC to consult with their principals.

Mr. Mbeki, mediator in Zimbabwe on behalf of the Southern African Development Community since March 2007, said both parties remain committed to concluding talks on the creation of a national unity government within two weeks. President Mugabe declared on Wednesday that he is committed to total success in the talks.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera, who followed Mr. Mbeki through the day, told Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the South African leader said talks will resume Sunday.

But MDC sources told VOA that the two sides are far apart as to what position Tsvangirai should hold in the proposed unity government. ZANU-PF has offered the post of third vice president, while the MDC says Tsvangirai should become prime minister.

However, opposition sources said the post of third vice president might be acceptable within a transitional authority which would organize new elections within two years.

International crisis group senior analyst Sydney Masamvu told reporter Blessing Zulu that mixed signals are a part of the negotiating process.

Elsewhere, officials of Tsvangirai's MDC formation said members and activists continue to be killed in political violence alleged to be organized by ZANU-PF in spite of undertakings by both parties in the July 21 memorandum for understanding that set the talks in motion.

Party officials said Fungisai Ziome of Glendale in the Mazowe Central constituency of Mashonaland Central province, and Kingswell Muteta of Mudzi North constituency in Mashonaland East were murdered last week, allegedly by ZANU-PF militia.

The MDC said Ziome was abducted from her home July 23 and her burned and mutilated body was found in a maize field on Saturday. It said Muteta, a Kadoma police officer, died in Harare on Sunday following a beating by war veterans at his parents’ home in Mudzi July 17.

The police officer had visited his mother after receiving news that she was severely beaten by the militia for supporting the opposition. MDC sources said Muteta was buried Wednesday in Mudzi while Ziome’s body awaited a post mortem.

The party said the death of these two brought to 122 the number of its activists slain in political violence since the first round of elections on March 29.

MDC Organizing Secretary Kubvoruno Choga of Mashonaland East province told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that five people were arrested in Mudzi on Wednesday in connection with Muteta’s death.

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

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