With the end-October deadline set by South African President Thabo Mbeki for the conclusion of crisis resolution talks between Zimbabwe's ruling and opposition parties at hand, observers are voicing optimism and skepticism as to the outcome.
Taken at face value, the fruits of the South African mediated negotiations seem to be substantial: a bipartisan compromise in parliament on a constitutional amendment that at first seemed drafted to maximize the 2008 election chances of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party; the draft of a fully overhauled constitution; tentative talks on the political violence the opposition alleges on the part of the ruling party; and tentative commitments by ZANU-PF to repeal certain repressive laws.
Besides tossing out the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, used by the government to intimidate and in some cases silence media outlets, and the Public Order and Security Act, an all-purpose measure for repressing political opposition, the ruling party is also talking about amending electoral laws in time for the presidential, general and local elections that are tentatively slated for March of next year.
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The fruits of the Pretoria discussions mediated by Mr. Mbeki under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community are still heavily overshadowed by charges that the government and ruling party, particularly in provincial cities and rural areas that are longtime ZANU-PF fiefs, continue to use violence as a political tool.
Encouragingly, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi this week met with a delegation from the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai, which had held a news conference earlier in the week to allege that MDC supporters were still being beaten and in some cases killed for belonging to the opposition.
Mohadi's promise to investigate the alleged violence was seen by some as a gesture of good faith, but by the more cynical as a public relations move aimed at Mbeki and his Southern African peers leaders who want to see the crisis resolved before it causes further damage to the region as well as suffering for Zimbabweans.
Now the question in many minds is whether the agreements coming out of the Pretoria talks will translate into a better and more peaceful life for those Zimbabweans.
To examine these issues, VOA turned to Advocacy Coordinator Abel Chikomo of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, and Senior Researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.
Maroleng told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that developments led him to believe things were looking up for Zimbabwe.