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Some Skepticism as Zimbabwe Political Parties Pledge to End Political Violence

State-controlled media came under fire from political party representatives for alleged bias and hate speech, and delegates agreed such reporting fanned the flames of violence and obstructed the healing process

Further details emerged Thursday on a meeting between the hierarchies of Zimbabwe's three main political parties in which the leadership of ZANU-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change promised to send a message of peace, reconciliation and nonviolence down to the grass roots of their national organizations.

The three-hour meeting at a Harare hotel on Wednesday was called by the Organ on Healing, Reconciliation and Integration set up under the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing, with the aim of ensuring adherence to articles three and 18 Article of the GPA in which the parties engaged to shun violence and promote healing.

Delegates from the ZANU-PF politburo and the national executives of the MDC formations of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara agreed to set up an inter-party organ on dialogue that will operate down to the village level to address political violence and lay the groundwork for truth-telling and national healing. It was agreed both perpetrator and the victim must tell their stories for proper healing to take place.

Many Zimbabweans were traumatized by political violence related to the 2008 presidential and general elections in which hundreds died, leading Mr. Tsvangirai to pull out of the June presidential run-off, triggering a crisis that the Southern African Development Community helped patch over with the power-sharing agreement.

At Wednesday's meeting, state-controlled media came under fire for alleged bias and hate speech. Delegates agreed such reporting fanned the flames of violence and obstructed the healing process.

Leading the ZANU-PF delegation was party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa while the MDC groupings were represented by their secretaries general - Tendai Biti for the Tsvangirai formation and Welshman Ncube of the wing led by Arthur Mutambara. A third MDC formation that recently splintered away was not represented.

Officials of all three parties called the meeting historic. Such talks among party structures are rare.

But political violence victim Sanderson Makombe, who survived a gasoline bombing in 2000 that killed two other MDC activists, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that he remains skeptical of the party pledges.

The Organ on National Healing said it received firm commitments from the three parties forming the national unity government to encourage their members to shun violence, practice tolerance and live harmoniously.

Gibson Sibanda of the Mutambara MDC formation, an adviser to the national healing body, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that he believes the parties are committed.

Despite the new found harmony, however, the unity government seemed headed for a new clash over the appointment of ambassadors by President Robert Mugabe without consultations with his governing partners.

Both MDC wings expressed alarm and dismay after learning that Mr. Mugabe has decided on new ambassadors to the United Nations, Switzerland, Angola and Iran. They said this is contrary to an agreement by Mr. Mugabe to give first preference to MDC candidates when ambassadorial posts open. Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Mzila Ndlovu of the Mutambara MDC formation voiced shock when informed of the development.

Zimbabwe Ambassador to Switzerland Chitsaka Chipaziwa confirmed he is to succeed Boniface Chidyausiku at the United Nations. Sources in ZANU-PF said the president is not obliged to consult Mr. Tsvangirai and Mutambara on such appointments. But Jameson Timba, a minister of state attached to Mr. Tsvangirai's office, said Mr. Mugabe's unilateral appointments, as on past occasions, are causing friction within the government.

For a deeper look at Wednesday’s healing session among inclusive government parties, VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to Iden Wetherell, special projects editor for the Independent weekly newspaper, and Lovemore Kadenge, representative of the Tsvangirai MDC in the joint monitoring committee tracking power sharing.

Kadenge said that if all parties implement what is stated in the Global Political Agreement about non-violence it would be a turning point for Zimbabweans yearning for normalcy. Wetherell said observers are inclined to skepticism based on non-compliance with the GPA to date, but that it is worth giving the non-violence pledge a chance.