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Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF and MDC Trade Barbs Ahead of S. African Mediation Session

Zimbabwe's long-ruling ZANU-PF and the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change are trading charges and countercharges in the run-up to mediation later this month by South African President and Southern African Development Community Chairman Jacob Zuma, who has been called upon to try to resolve lingering troublesome issues.

Political sources said hardliners in both parties are driving the discussion, complicating matters. ZANU-PF through the state-controlled Herald newspaper on Thursday accused the MDC of trying to use the Global Political Agreement - signed in September 2008 and the basis of the power-sharing government - to oust President Robert Mugabe.

The MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai seized on the acquittal this week of its director general, Toendepi Shone, on charges of perjury as proof that prosecutions of more than a dozen MDC lawmakers - some already convicted - have been conjured up. The MDC says ZANU-PF is manipulating the justice system to erode its House majority.

A crisis meeting of the three unity government principals was called off Monday as Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, head of a rival MDC formation was unable to attend. That meeting has been reset for Monday, three days before Mr. Zuma's mediation.

Johannesburg-based international relations expert David Monyae told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the burden is on the leadership of Zimbabwe's unity government, not President Zuma, to make power-sharing work.

Elsewhere, sources in the Mutambara MDC formation SAID house speaker Lovemore Moyo has unseated three members of parliament expelled by the party. They said Moyo wrote to President Mugabe yesterday advising him of the vacated House seats.

The party expelled Abdenico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu for misconduct, then demanded that the speaker remove them from their house seats.

Reached for comment, Speaker Moyo said the issue was still under discussion. He said if any action is taken he will inform the concerned parties first.

Political analyst Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, the Manicaland province capital, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party will likely replace the expelled members with hand-picked loyalists.

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