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S. Africa: Face-to-Face Multi-Party Talks in Zimbabwe Likely Soon

South African President Thabo Mbeki has reportedly made some progress in initiating face-to-face dialogue between Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party and the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr. Mbeki, who was mandated by regional leaders to mediate the Zimbabwean crisis, is expected to report back to the Southern African Development Community leaders every three months. His first feedback is expected by June 30.

Mr. Mbeki reportedly told his National Assembly Thursday, that the Zimbabwe discussions are “proceeding very well,” though he did not give further details, saying he wanted to discuss with regional leaders first.

Sources in Pretoria and Harare described the move as a “break through.” Opposition sources said plans for the first multi-party talks are already under way.

To date, the South African team has met separately with the Zanu-PF delegation led by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, and the two opposition MDC secretaries general Tendai Biti of the Morgan Tsvangirai camp, and Welshman Ncube of the Arthur Mutambara camp.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai led MDC, confirmed that they discussed the progress of the mediation efforts at their National Executive Council, Friday, but would not give details.

Political analyst and human rights lawyer Brian Kagoro told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, that despite the optimism, he is skeptical about Mr. Mbeki’s mediation efforts.

Leading non-governmental organizations have also voiced concern about Mr. Mbeki's initiative.

Director Arnold Tsunga of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and chairman Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly, told VOA the negotiations will not succeed unless Mr. Mbeki urges Mr. Mugabe to stop his clampdown against his opponents.

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