South African President Thabo Mbeki, Pretoria cabinet members and senior aides who are mediating talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and its opposition have drawn a veil of silence over the proceedings, but further details emerged this week about the agenda agreed by the two parties in a first round of talks concluded Monday.
The Star newspaper of Johannesburg quoted unnamed sources close to the talks as saying the two ministers representing the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and the secretaries general of the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change at the negotiating table each made compromises in the talks.
Opposition agenda proposals accepted by Justice Minister Patrick Chinimasa and Labor Minister Nicholas Goche included the need for a constitutional overhaul, the reopening of independent newspapers shut down by Harare in recent years, creation of a truly independent electoral commission, putting an end to political violence, restoring the rule of law and repealing repressive legislation, the Star said.
MDC negotiators Tendai Biti, for the faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai, and Welshman Ncube, for the camp of Arthur Mutambara, agreed to examine the Western sanctions which Harare maintains are the root cause of the country's economic collapse, this under the heading of “the role of external players in the Zimbabwean crisis.”
Other accepted agenda items include ZANU-PF's contention that the MDC is Western-directed, and the consideration of land reform as a core issue in the crisis talks.
Studio 7 correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported from Johannesburg.
Although some South African officials have spun the talks as "a great achievement," some analysts voice skepticism as to where they will lead, noting ZANU-PF's record in previous such talks, and the policies it has pursued restricting civil liberties.
National Director Elizabeth Sidiropoulos of the South African Institute of International Affairs told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that what is happening on the ground in Zimbabwe contradicts what ZANU-PF is saying.