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Skeptics Doubt Reports Of Progress In Zimbabwe Crisis Talks Brokered By Pretoria

Reports emerged this week suggesting movement in the Zimbabwe crisis negotiations between the ruling party and opposition with South African mediation, but observers question whether supposed concessions by ZANU-PF will be substantiated.

The Independent weekly newspaper of Harare reported Friday that the ruling party in the Pretoria-based talks has agreed to amend the Public Order and Security Act. The paper commented that the party headed by President Robert Mugabe's“seems to be giving in to most of the demands” made by negotiators for the opposition.

But skeptics say that with the talks so shrouded in secrecy, it remains doubtful that the ruling party would make such significant concessions.

The ZANU-PF politburo and both MDC factions report significant progress in talks that could reshape legislation tabled in parliament to amend the constitution.

Next week should tell whether Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, one of the two ruling party negotiators in Pretoria and a principal author of the legislation, is ready to make major changes in the original draft that passed a first reading this week.

The amendment would shorten the president's term of office from six years to five and leave it to parliament to select a new president if the incumbent dies, is incapacitated or resigns from office. It would add 60 seats to the house and 18 to the senate. The amendment would also create a Zimbabwean Human Rights Commission.

For insight into the into the parallel process of the Pretoria talks and the movement of the constitutional amendment legislation, reporter Carole Gombakomba turned to political commentator Chido Makunike and Chief Parliamentary Whip Innocent Gonese of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

Makunike said ZANU-PF is not likely to give ground on key issues in the proposed constitution just for the sake of progress in the talks.

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