Financial, political and diplomatic negotiations continued in the background Friday with no word on whether President Robert Mugabe and his government were prepared to meet conditions reportedly demanded by South Africa in exchange for a loan of several hundred million dollars.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper said South Africa had in fact demanded no such concessions from Harare, despite what appears to be some determination in Pretoria to use the Zimbabwe’s urgent need for the loan to make progress in resolving its political crisis.
The paper quoted incoming South African Ambassador Mlungisi Makalimaq as saying Harare and Pretoria are discussing a number of issues, including the financial aid package – but without political conditions as has been widely reported. The top condition is said to be for Harare to open talks with its opposition.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai reiterated his satisfaction with the African Union’s choice of former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano as mediator in the proposed talks.
The Reuters news agency quoted Mr. Tsvangirai as endorsing “principled discussions” with the Mugabe government – but Mr. Tsvangirai, in the Seychelles on vacation, told Reuters that Mr. Chissano would have to show he is an honest broker and would have a difficult task persuading Mr. Mugabe to come to the table.
In South Africa, meanwhile, opposition officials were urging President Thabo Mbeki to demand President Mugabe's resignation as a condition for the loan.
Democratic Alliance Chief Whip Douglas Gibson says only Mr. Mugabe’s exit can resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, saying Pretoria must stand firm if Mr. Mugabe refuses to meet conditions for the bailout package. Opposition whips are calling on Finance Minister Trevor Manuel to make a statement on the loan.
Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked Mr. Gibson about the pressure being applied to the Pretoria government by the opposition.