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Zimbabwe Opposition Skeptical On 'National Vision' Of Church Heads

Movement for Democratic Change founding president Morgan Tsvangirai and leaders of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign are expected to meet the Churches in Zimbabwe religious leaders promoting a “national vision” document they hope will help open a dialogue between President Robert Mugabe and his opponents.

But opposition insiders said the meeting would be a mere formality as Tsvangirai's MDC faction and the closely allied Save Zimbabwe civic coalition have concluded that the paper amounts to an offer of a "soft landing" for Mugabe, and dismissed it.

Senior figures from the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Fellowship and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches presented the paper to Mr. Mugabe last month.

The document said the church leaders sought to "facilitate national dialogue, debate and national reconstruction across the broad spectrum of national opinion, constituencies and stakeholders."

Mugabe’s response was said to have been lukewarm, particularly on the document's suggestion that the constitution be overhauled.

Executives of the Tsvangirai faction examined the document Saturday, and opposition sources said a majority concluded that it did not address fundamental issues and that church consultations on which the report was based had not been wide enough.

Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the grouping's official position would be forthcoming.

Gabriel Chaibva, representing the rival MDC faction of Authur Mutambara. said that he had been disappointed by the church’s approach.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the document could not be of any real use in resolving the country's long crisis.

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