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SADC mediated talks between ZANU (PF) and MDC - Index of articles
talks deadlock, Mugabe signs security and media law reforms in Zimbabwe
Associated Press (AP)
January 19, 2008
President Robert Mugabe signed
into law changes to Zimbabwe's media, security and electoral
laws negotiated with the opposition before March presidential and
parliamentary elections, the government-controlled Herald newspaper
- negotiated in South
Africa-mediated talks between the ruling party and opposition
aimed at ending Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis - were
rushed through parliament at the end of 2007.
The opposition has given
a muted welcome to the amendments, but says nothing short of a new
constitution would guarantee polling was free and fair. Most civic
The new security laws
make it easier to hold political rallies, which in the past were
often banned by police on the pretense that parties failed to meet
strict security requirements. Under the new legislation, only courts
can ban political activities on security grounds.
The amendment will be
tested Wednesday when the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
plans to hold a "Freedom Walk" in Harare to protest the
worsening economic hardships and press its demands for constitutional
Police have not commented
on the march or its possible security risks, and it remains unclear
whether they planned to move against demonstrators. The state media,
however, has accused the opposition of taking a confrontational
stance despite months of negotiations with the ruling party on political
reforms. South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was appointed
mediator after a brutal government clampdown in March, visited Harare
on Thursday for talks with Mugabe and opposition leaders that ended
Mbeki told reporters
in Harare that work was still in progress on what he called outstanding
"impediments," without elaborating. There is a news blackout
on the talks, though opposition demands for a new constitution have
been the main unresolved issue.
Mugabe refused to comment Thursday and appeared terse and irritated
in a news brief to state television. His government insists there
is not enough time before March elections to meet all the opposition
demands, but has refused to delay the vote until June, as demanded
by the opposition. Mugabe, 83, is widely expected to win the elections,
given his party's hold on power and divisions in the opposition
The revised media laws
relax rules for journalists obtaining licenses, and sets up a new
licensing authority - the Zimbabwe Media Commission.
Independent media groups,
which are virtually outlawed at present, say will also be put to
the test in coming weeks as foreign journalists seek visas and state
media accreditation to visit Zimbabwe for the elections. In the
recent past, foreign journalists have routinely been denied visas
and accreditation for reporting from Zimbabwe.
The electoral amendments
provide for opposition lawmakers to nominate some members of the
state Electoral Commission.
Critics say the changes
do not go far enough, and that the commission would still be heavily
weighted in favor of the government and ruling party. There is no
guarantee for the presence of independent foreign election observers.
Mugabe insists only visiting
observers from "friendly progressive nations" will be
permitted to monitor polling, effectively excluding monitors from
former colonial power Britain, the European Union or the United
The Herald said the new
laws went into effect Jan. 11, though the news was released only
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