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civic groups demand a platform
Nelson Banya, Independent Online (IOL)
May 30, 2007
Harare - Zimbabwean civic
groups on Wednesday demanded they be included in political negotiations
with President Robert Mugabe's government and called for an end
to a crackdown on opposition activists.
President Thabo Mbeki is mediating talks between Mugabe's government
and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to
try to solve a deep political crisis as the country teeters toward
Zimbabwe Campaign - a coalition of 31 civic and opposition groups,
including the two MDC factions - has said the process needed to
be broadened and should not start until the government stops its
crackdown on opponents.
Save Zimbabwe Campaign
spokesperson Lovemore Madhuku told journalists on Wednesday the
talks should be extended beyond political parties to ensure broad
agreement on the outcome.
"We insist that
the dialogue process must be broad-based and not limited to political
parties but must be inclusive of civic society and the churches,"
Madhuku said. "We will be making this position known to everybody,
President Mbeki included."
"Our position is
that the process must be opened up and transparent and government
should cease its terror campaign ... you cannot negotiate when people
are being arrested and abducted, meetings are banned and the opposition
has no access to the public media," Madhuku added.
South Africa's foreign
ministry, meanwhile, said in a document released in parliament it
was concerned that a rift in Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF over his plans
to stand for another presidential term in 2008 could complicate
Mbeki's mediation on behalf of the Southern African Development
"The ongoing infighting
within Zanu-PF, if not contained, would pose challenges for SADC's
mediation efforts, as energy within the party would be consumed
in efforts to come out on top in the succession battle," read
part of the document handed out during a briefing session to parliament's
Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs.
"In the absence
of party unity it might be hard for the mediator to extract firm
commitments from the party, during the dialogue process," the
Zimbabwe's latest political
crackdown comes as the country's economy labours under the highest
inflation in the world at more than 3 700 percent along with crippling
shortages of fuel, food and foreign exchange.
Mugabe, 83, blames the
crisis on foreign economic sabotage following his policy of seizing
white-owned farms to give to landless blacks and has called the
MDC stooges of his critics in London and Washington.
Mugabe's government launched
a crackdown on the MDC in March after accusing the opposition party
of seeking to overthrow it through street protests.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
and dozens of his colleagues were arrested and badly beaten in police
custody after trying to defy a ban on political rallies and protests.
Last weekend police stormed
the opposition's head office in Harare and arrested about 200 activists
who were subsequently released without charge.
by Wendell Roelf in Cape Town
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