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African Union Urges Speedy Conclusion to Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks

  • Jonga Kandemiiri

Tanzania, currently holding the chairmanship of the African Union, on Tuesday urged a rapid resolution of Zimbabwe's extended power-sharing negotiations so that all parties involved can turn their attention to the country's accelerating economic meltdown.

Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe told reporters in Dar es Salaam that the African Union wants to see a 50-50 power-sharing deal allocating equal powers to President Robert Mugabe and to Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the dominant formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, long in opposition but now with a majority in parliament.

The power-sharing talks that began in late July have been snagged for weeks on the question of executive powers. Some sources said the gap between the sides is widening.

The political climate in the country has become more embittered since the reopening last week of parliament, during which MDC lawmakers heckled President Mugabe.

Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party has reacted angrily to the incident. The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that the longtime ruling party has sent video footage of the raucous session to South African President Thabo Mbeki, mediator in the talks, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa calling it evidence the MDC seeks "regime change."

Mr. Mbeki was expected in Harare on Thursday for further consultations with President Mugabe, Tsvangirai and rival MDC formation leader Arthur Mutambara.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Tanzanian statement indicated African Union patience with Mr. Mbeki as mediator on behalf of the Southern African Development Community is wearing thin.

Meanwhile, political tensions were spreading from the talks and parliament to local councils.

MDC officials in Manicaland province said riot police and ZANU-PF militia Tuesday disrupted the swearing-in of councilors at the rural district council offices in Makoni, Rusape. They said the police and ZANU-PF militants forcibly ejected three MDC members of parliament from the proceedings and assaulted MDC supporters in attendance.

The MDC with 23 elected members has a majority on the council - ZANU-PF has 16 members. Tempers flared after ZANU-PF district officials moved to impose eight non-elected members to represent special interests, a move opposed by the MDC. Some experts said the rural councils act gives such special council members voting rights.

MDC sources said some of the people ZANU-PF was attempting to seat were candidates in the March 29 local elections who were defeated by MDC candidates. Among them was Monica Chinamasa, wife of justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, the sources said.

VOA was unable to obtain comment from local ZANU-PF or district officials on the incident.

Harare Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto of the MDC said the capital's city council includes five members representing special interests, but added that they do not have voting powers.

Bulawayo Mayor Patrick Moyo, also of the MDC, said his council has no such “special people,” and even if it did they would not have voting powers under the Urban Councils Act.

Movement for Democratic Change Manicaland provincial spokesman Pishai Muchauraya told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that ZANU-PF wants to impose special members to overturn the MDC majority in the council and seize control of the council's chairmanship.

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

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