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S. Africa's Mbeki in Last-Ditch Bid To Rescue Zimbabwe Crisis Talks

Talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition were expected to resume in Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday having broken off last week when the parties reached a deadlock over the date of the next election and the question of a new constitution.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, mediator in the talks, was also very much taken up with the congress of his country's ruling African National Congress, where he was replaced as president of the party by populist ex-freedom fighter Jacob Zuma.

Negotiators for Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change accuse their ZANU-PF counterparties of reneging on a promise allegedly made in June to adopt a new constitution before elections are held next year, this in exchange for support by the opposition for a constitutional amendment overhauling the electoral system.

The ruling party says time is too short to adopt a new constitution before the elections are held in March, as President Robert Mugabe says they must be "without fail."

Ruling party insiders said ZANU-PF negotiators will submit to Mr. Mbeki that they can prove their commitment to a new constitution by publishing it officially right away - but not putting it in place until after presidential and general elections are held.

A senior opposition official called the proposal “mischievous and dishonest.”

Executive Director Joy Mabhenge of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the ruling party wants to hoodwink the opposition with its latest proposal.

Researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security studies in Pretoria, South Africa, said he believes President Mugabe is unlikely to go along with changes to the constitution that might reduce his virtually unlimited powers.

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