Thursday, 17 July 2008

Tsvangirai's MDC hostage to western capital.

By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 07/17/2008 09:50:34
ZIMBABWE’S main opposition party faced accusations of “playing hostage to western capital” after refusing to sign a crucial deal that would have paved the way for power-sharing talks with President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party.

A South African newspaper reported Wednesday that President Thabo Mbeki – leading a SADC and African Union mediation effort between Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) -- was ready to fly to Zimbabwe for the momentous signing of a “memorandum of engagement”, but the MDC balked at the eleventh hour after marathon talks last night.

It is the second time in as many weeks that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has scuttled Mbeki’s push for a deal, having pulled out of face-to-face talks with Mbeki and Mugabe in another cloud of political mist on July 5.

The failure of the MDC to reach agreement came as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned that Britain would try to push through another United Nations resolution seeking to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe if Mbeki’s mediation failed to lead to a “legitimate outcome”.

Britain and the United States, who both refused to recognise Mugabe’s June 27 re-election in a vote boycotted by Tsvangirai, were frustrated last week when China and Russia used their veto power at the United Nations Security Council to block sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Britain is at odds with Mbeki mediation plan and favours the instalment of Tsvangirai as the leader of any transitional authority that may come out of talks between Zanu PF and the MDC.

Professor Jonathan Moyo, an independent legislator who says he is “uniquely qualified” to critique both Zanu PF and MDC over the talks on Wednesday suggested Tsvangirai was taking a cue from Brown.

“Brown appears so convinced that Mbeki will fail,” Moyo said, “and that leads me to believe he will use Tsvangirai to scuttle the mediation.”

Moyo, a former Information Minister under Mugabe’s government who has contested Zanu PF twice and won in Tsholotsho North, said Tsvangirai’s MDC “keeps jumping around, shifting the terms of the preconditions for talks”.

“Today it’s this condition that must be met, tomorrow it’s something else,” Moyo said. “They are trying their level best to defeat the progress of mediation so that Britain will say ‘look, no mediation… so what?, let’s use sanctions!’

“There is enough evidence already that the Tsvangirai’s group is not cooperating. Britain is angry with Mbeki also, they want him to have egg on his face. It is clear the British strategy is to go back to the UN via the road of failed mediation, and people must wise up to this challenge. People must understand where Tsvangirai’s instructions are coming from.”

Dumisani Muleya, the Business Day’s Zimbabwe correspondent said: “Mbeki and his negotiating team were definitely set to fly into Zimbabwe on Wednesday for the signing of that memorandum between the political parties, but the visit had to be cancelled at the eleventh hour after Tsvangirai’s MDC faction failed to sign the agreement. Tsvangirai and his group want their pre-conditions for substantive dialogue met, before the talks can proceed.”

The MDC charges that its supporters are still being attacked, and says up to 113 activists have been killed since March 29. The party also wants “political prisoners” released and humanitarian aid restored.

The MDC has also said it also wants President Mbeki to be sidelined, or a second mediator appointed – a call rejected as a “false issue” by South Africa’s foreign minister on Tuesday.

Zanu PF and the MDC’s negotiating parties agreed on a working framework in Pretoria last week, notwithstanding the MDC’s statements that there was no “agreement”, Business Day reported.

This led to a final draft on Monday, which was approved by the parties on Tuesday and signed by Zanu PF and a smaller MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara. But much depended on Tsvangirai’s group signing.

“Last night, Mbeki and his team were coming, everything was set,” Muleya said. “But this morning, everybody woke up to the reality that Tsvangirai had not signed after much debating within his party.”

Sources say Tsvangirai is increasingly “encumbered by those who control finances” – a group that believes Zanu PF can be brought down through sanctions and other measures.

“He is very much burdened by that issue, it’s major stumbling block,” said one source close to the talks. “The British are fighting their own battle, and they are using Tsvangirai to frustrate Mbeki. Western powers are employing the MDC to fail the talks. So Tsvangirai is being deterred by capital, he is a hostage to western capital.”

Muleya said there was a feeling in the other MDC faction - which has not set conditions before the talks - that “Western metropolis is clearly fighting for Zimbabwe mediation by frustrating Mbeki, and Tsvangirai is a willing tool in the game”.

Moyo, meanwhile, insists that the MDC’s dilly-dallying “will not change the fact that the solution must come from Zimbabweans, and only through dialogue can it be found”.

“The solution must come from Zimbabweans not the United Nations,” Moyo said. “It will never make sense to suggest a national presidential election whose outcome is disputed constitutes a threat to international peace. Even the 2000 American presidential election was disputed, but nobody said it was an international issue even with all the nuclear bombs America is sitting on.

“Zimbabwe is sitting on top of underutilised land -- that cannot threaten anyone except sections of the British aristocracy whose investments are threatened.”

Nqobizitha Mlilo, an MDC spokesman based in Johannesburg, said the party had not signed up to the memorandum because their preconditions had not been met. He declined to respond to Moyo's accusations, saying the party leadership would be releasing a more detailed statement on the party's position.

He said: "We set conditions for the resumption of talks, none of those conditions have been met. The party leadership will speak on those issues either today (Wednesday) or tomorrow."

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