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In Regional Talks, Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Agrees to Re-Engage President Mugabe

Exceeding the expectations of many observers, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed Thursday after talks mediated by several Southern African heads of state to end a boycott and re-engage with President Robert Mugabe in their unity government.

Mr. Tsvangirai told reporters in Maputo, Mozambique, following a meeting of the Southern African Development Community's troika on politics, defense and security, that his formation of the Movement for Democratic Change has "suspended our disengagement from the government" which Mr. Tsvangirai announced on Oct. 16.

President Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, head of the smaller MDC formation, also attended the meeting as the other two unity government principals. The three signed the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing which ended a months-long stalemate following contested national elections followed by deadly violence.

Tsvangirai told reporters he would give Mr. Mugabe 30 days to "implement the agreements on the pertinent issues we are concerned about." Those include a cessation of political violence, an end to abusive prosecutions of MDC lawmakers, the swearing in and installation of MDC provincial governors and ambassadors, and the replacement of the current Reserve Bank governor and attorney general, re-appointed or named by Mr. Mugabe in late 2008.

Opening the talks, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, chairman of the SADC troika, called on the Zimbabwean leaders to set aside their differences and work together in the best interest of their country. "We want to see the parties reiterate their commitment to continue working together to overcome the present challenges, always putting, as they have done, the national interest of their country first," Mr. Guebuza said.

President Guebuza added that, "Everything possible should be done to maintain political stability and the continued influx of foreign investment necessary for the progress of the ongoing process of relaunching the country's economy."

Mr. Guebuza and fellow troika member King Mswati of Swaziland (Zambian President Rupiah Banda sent a delegate), reinforced by South African President Jacob Zuma, hoped to guide the Zimbabwean power-sharing principals to a resolution of a three-week crisis.

Relations between Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai have long been strained, but they reached a breaking point on October 16 when the prime minister declared a “disengagement’ by his Movement for Democratic Change formation from Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.

Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation says ZANU-PF has failed to meet its obligations under the 2008 Global Political Agreement in numerous respects.

SADC sources said regional officials would try to convince Mr. Tsvangirai to re-engage with ZANU-PF while pressing Mr. Mugabe to resolve a range of so-called outstanding issues left unresolved when the inclusive government was formed in February.

VOA Maputo correspondent Simeao Pongoane told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that restoring unity to the Harare government looked like a tall order for the SADC troika meeting at the Joaquim Chissano Conference Center in Maputo.

For views on where the SADC process might lead, VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere turned to human rights lawyer Tinoziva Bere, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, and spokeswoman Nicole Fritz of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

Both said SADC should increase pressure on President Mugabe to adhere to the GPA.

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