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trying to fob MDC off with minor reforms
Dumisani Muleya, Business Day (SA)
September 18, 2007
Zimbabwe President Robert
Mugabe is prepared to make only insignificant concessions that do
not dilute his power during talks between his ruling Zanu PF and
the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Mugabe's
unwillingness to concede ground in talks for meaningful reforms
to end Zimbabwe's political and economic problems came to
light during Zanu PF's critical politburo meeting held in
Harare early this month. The politburo meeting, chaired by Mugabe,
defined the rules of engagement and the parameters for the talks
for the first time. Zanu PF officials who had been largely kept
in the dark about the talks until two weeks ago were told whatever
agreement came out the process would not change anything. Mugabe's
hitherto undisclosed position means Zanu PF is negotiating in bad
faith despite its efforts to appear as if it is genuinely engaged
with the MDC in talks in SA to end Zimbabwe's protracted crisis.
Zanu PF's position
on the talks further complicates President Thabo Mbeki's role
as talks facilitator. Mbeki, who is facing all sorts of obstacles,
is under mounting pressure to wring an agreement out of the current
process, having failed to do so on two occasions in 2002 and 2003-
04. Inside sources said Zanu PF agreed at its politburo meeting
after a briefing on the talks by its main negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa,
that the party would not make any major concessions during negotiations.
Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche form Zanu PF's negotiating team,
while Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti represent the MDC. Ncube and
Biti are assisted by Priscilla Misihairabwi. The talks are chaired
by SA's Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi,
who is assisted by director-general in the Presidency the Rev Frank
Chikane, and Mbeki's legal adviser, Mujanku Gumbi.
point man on the talks, revealed during the politburo meeting that
issues to which Zanu PF had already agreed were inconsequential
in the broad scheme of things because they would not affect Mugabe's
grip on power and his bid for re-election next year. It is understood
that Chinamasa said Zanu PF should support Mbeki during the talks
because he had been very helpful to the party in several respects.
This is the same position taken by the Zanu PF central committee
meeting on March 30 after Mbeki became mediator. Chinamasa said
Zanu PF had agreed to abolish appointed MPs in the lower house of
parliament; to have the presidential, parliamentary and municipal
elections held concurrently on one day, and to have the polls postponed
from March to June next year if necessary. Zanu PF is also giving
ground on debate on the bill of rights and death penalty, among
other things such as slightly amending repressive laws, which do
not open the floodgates for a new constitutional dispensation.
It is said Mugabe told
his party that whatever had been agreed on "does not hurt us
at all". Mugabe and Chinamasa's remarks are said to have
shown party officials that the idea of the talks is at best to buy
time or at worst to make concessions that do not affect Mugabe's
battle to cling to power. The talks are expected to end in mid-October.
Chinamasa also made it clear that Zanu PF would not agree to the
need for a new constitution. Mugabe had publicly said he did not
want a new constitution after Mbeki had started his mediation. This
means Zanu PF has rejected the main item on the agenda for the talks.
However, the ruling party would make small concessions on the electoral
laws, repressive security legislation, media regulations and the
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