Thursday, November 22, 2007

(HERALD) Zim talks: Mbeki to jet in

Zim talks: Mbeki to jet in
Herald Reporter

SOUTH AFRICAN President Thabo Mbeki is expected in Zimbabwe today for a meeting with representatives of the ruling Zanu-PF and the two factions of the opposition MDC as part of the ongoing talks between the two parties. A statement from the Office of the South African President yesterday said: "President Thabo Mbeki will, while on his way to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda tomorrow, make a brief stopover in Harare, Zimbabwe, to consult with representatives of the country’s major political players."

President Mbeki’s visit, the statement said, was in line with the Sadc mandate reached in March this year empowering him to facilitate dialogue between Zanu-PF and the MDC.

So far, the parties have co-sponsored the Constitutional Amendment (No. 18) Act which — among other things — will harmonise presidential, parliamentary and local government elections scheduled for next year.

"President Mbeki’s visit is aimed at deepening the process of dialogue," the statement read.

Following the March Sadc Extraordinary Summit in Tanzania — which was called specifically to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe, the DRC and Lesotho — President Mbeki appointed a three-member team to facilitate dialogue between Zanu-PF and the fractured opposition.

South Africa’s Local Government Minister Mr Sydney Mufamadi, the Director in the Office of the President Rev Frank Chikane and Advocate Monjangu Gumbi make up the team.

Zanu-PF mandated the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Cde Patrick Chinamasa and his Public Service counterpart Cde Nicholas Goche to negotiate on behalf of the ruling party while secretaries-general of the Mutambara and Tsvangirai-led factions, Mr Welshman Ncube and Mr Tendai Biti respectively, represent the opposition.

President Mbeki had received a lot of flak for his "quiet diplomacy" approach with the South African leader insisting that Zimbabweans should be allowed to solve their own problems with other countries only coming in as facilitators.

Dialogue between the two parties is reportedly progressing well and they have actually held more meetings without their South African facilitators.

President Mbeki’s approach has paid dividends as evidenced by the passage of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 18) Bill with consensus from both parties.

Among other issues, the amendment facilitates an increase in the number of seats in the House of Assembly to 210 directly elected seats while the Senate will now have 93 members.

Furthermore, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will take over the mandate of all constituency delimitation while voters will be required to cast their ballots in their home wards to minimise logistical constraints.

In the event of a sitting head of state failing to complete his/her term for whatever reason, the House of Assembly and the Senate, acting as an electoral college, will have the prerogative to elect a new president to complete the term.

Dialogue is still in progress, with both parties saying they are happy with the process though the opposition has tried to derail the talks by making unsubstantiated claims of State-sponsored violence.

It is believed that pressures from some civil society organisations opposed to the manner in which the talks are progressing are behind the attempts to throw spanners in the works.

Efforts to get comment from representatives of both parties on President Mbeki’s itinerary were fruitless.

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