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South Africa's Mbeki Seeks NGO Buy-In On Zimbabwe Crisis Compromise

Under mounting pressure to produce tangible results in his mediation of the festering Zimbabwe political and economic crisis, South African President Thabo Mbeki has again reached out to civil society leaders, who were to meet with him Sunday.

The Southern African Development Community appointed Mr. Mbeki mediator in the crisis at an extraordinary summit in late March following an upsurge of political violence in Zimbabwe in which an opposition activist was shot to death.

Sources in Pretoria said that Mr. Mbeki is anxious to secure an endorsement from the civic leaders of his efforts to date. He was to brief them on progress, in particular on a reported compromise on the constitutional amendment the government has tabled in parliament that would make major changes in the electoral dispensation.

Other prominent items on the crisis resolution agenda include conditions for elections set for March 2008 and revocation or amendment of repressive laws like the Public Order and Security Act, often wielded against political dissenters, and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, used to silence independent media.

Some non-governmental organizations have expressed the concern that the talks are too secretive, and for that reason are reluctant to give them a stamp of approval.

Some ZANU-PF and opposition insiders say the talks are progressing smoothly and note in evidence that negotiators are now meeting in Harare instead of Pretoria.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Coordinator Jacob Mafume told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that although there has been some consultation with Pretoria, the NGO's are likely to stay on the sidelines for the time being.

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