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South Africa Pushes for Zimbabwe Dialogue; Mugabe Resists

Prospects for dialogue between Zimbabwe’s ruling party and the opposition appear to have improved with President Robert Mugabe’s failure to secure the major loan that he sought from China during his recent trip to Beijing, analysts say.

China's rejection of Mr. Mugabe's request increases South Africa’s leverage to push for the reactivation of long-suspended political discussions in Harare.

Spokesman Smuts Ngonyama of the ruling African National Congress said the party supports dialogue in Zimbabwe and will soon announce developments on that front.

Zimbabwe opposition spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi of the Movement for Democratic Change says his party is ready to engage. The MDC has already named its secretary general, lawyer Welshman Ncube, to lead its negotiating team.

But Mr. Mugabe says any talks will be confined to parliament, where the ruling party claimed a two-thirds majority in March general elections (which the opposition charges were tainted by massive electoral fraud).

Mr. Mugabe also said he had invited United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to observe conditions in Zimbabwe following the government’s slum-clearing Operation Murambatsvina – not to “superintend over” political discussions.

Mr. Mugabe is reported to be resisting pressure from the South African government to institute broad-based reforms in return for a large loan to pay down International Monetary Fund debt arrears and purchase food and fuel.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked international relations expert Innocent Sithole of Leicester University in Britain why Mr. Mugabe is so doggedly resisting being drawn into talks with the political opposition.

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