Power-sharing talks between the ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change of Morgan Tsvangirai were set to enter a new phase on Thursday when the adversaries were to meet to discuss some of the core issues that must be resolved if the two sides are to start governing the country together.
Sources in Harare and Pretoria said President Mugabe and Tsvangirai will take up the central question as to which of them will exercise executive powers under the proposed deal for a transitional government which would prepare the ground for eventual new elections.
South African President Thabo Mbeki was expected to facilitate the Harare talks.
VOA sources dismissed reports in the South African media saying Mr. Mugabe has agreed to become a ceremonial president to Tsvangirai's executive prime minister.
Also on the agenda will be the appointment of provincial governors. Discussions to date have been heated on this point, sources said, and ZANU-PF negotiators are recommending that the influential gubernatorial posts be abolished after failing to convince the MDC to let Mr. Mugabe appoint them as the Zimbabwean constitution currently provides.
Meanwhile, United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios was in Pretoria consulting with Mr. Mbeki on the crisis resolution process, and was expected to travel on to Harare. Menkerios is the U.N. high-level representative in a reference group for the talks including the African Union and Southern African Development Community.
Independent political analyst Hermann Hanekom of Cape Town told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that a breakthrough at this stage seems possible.
Though a full and final agreement has yet to be reached, the parties to the talks have drafted a joint statement to “unequivocally condemn the promotion and use of violence as a political tool and call for…an end to all politically motivated violence in the country”.
The statement, drafted by the principal power-sharing negotiators, also calls for the safe return home of those displaced by the wave of violence that swept Zimbabwe following the March 29 elections and continued through the June 27 presidential runoff ballot.
ZANU-PF spokesman Chris Mutsvangwa told VOA that his party welcomes this development which will help in nation building.
The opposition says more than 120 of its members have succumbed to political violence, and thousands have been displaced. Violence continues in the Buhera South, Manicaland province, Mudzi, Mashonaland East and Gokwe in Midlands province, opposition sources say.
Spokesman Edwin Mushoriwa of the MDC grouping led by Arthur Mutambara told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the parties also want to see humanitarian and social welfare organizations rendering assistance as required.