Tuesday, July 22, 2008

(TALKZIMBABWE) President Mugabe and opposition sign talks deal

President Mugabe and opposition sign talks deal
Itayi Garande
Mon, 21 Jul 2008 16:23:00 +0000

President Robert Mugabe (c) holds hands with MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai (r) and Arthur Mutambara (l) at the signing of a MoU between the two parties in Harare. Monday 21 July, 2008.

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change leaders, Morgan Tsvangirai and Professor Arthur Mutambara have signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will lay down a framework for formal talks to end the political and economic crisis. A smaller MDC faction led by Professor Arthur Mutambara will also sign the MoU.

The MoU is calling for two weeks of negotiations on broad aspects of the Zimbabwe crisis, including the formation of a unity government and possibly how to hold the next elections.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, the official mediator arrived in Harare this morning for the signing ceremony and was greeted at Harare International Airport by President Mugabe. He was mandated by the regional Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to negotiate a peaceful transition in Zimbabwe and was recently endorsed by the African Union at its annual summit.

A reference group was set up over the weekend to help President Mbeki in his mediation efforts after Tsvangirai demanded that such a group be formed. The group includes officials from the A.U. and U.N. who will be briefed at every stage of the negotiation process.

A red carpet was rolled at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare for the ceremony.

President Mbeki said the MoU was important because "It commits the negotiating parties to an intense programme of work to try and finalise the negotiations as quickly as possible," adding that "All the Zimbabwean parties recognise the urgency of the matters they are discussing and all are committed to trying to complete this process as quickly as possible."

The leader of the smaller faction of the MDC, Professor Arthur Mutambara said there needed to be political maturity for Zimbabwe to move forward, saying Zimbabwe needed “one vision”.

In addressing the conference Morgan Tsvangirai, who sat next to President Mbeki said he was committed to finding a peaceful solution to Zimbabwe’s problems and the success or failure of such a process should not be attributable to one individual.

Tsvangirai referred to President Mugabe as “President of the State” highlighting an easing of a previous position on the role of President Mugabe. Tsvangirai also sounded conciliatory and indicated that President Mbeki’s efforts to negotiate had paid off.

He said he was ready to engage as a Zimbabwean and would not be found wanting in that process.

President Mugabe highlighted all the successes which had been achieved by President Mbeki in the mediation process which started last year. He thanked President Mbeki for the role he has played and continues to play in the mediation efforts in Zimbabwe and highlighted his “positive insensitivity to criticism” and heralded the signing of the MoU as a “serious matter”.

“Signatures appended here reflect sincerity on all of us, at least on the part of my party,” said President Mugabe urging all Zimbabweans to “cut off influences on us from Europe and the United States.”

He continued: “We must act as Zimbabweans, think as Zimbabweans, be masters of our own destiny,” saying that there was “No need for us to call on Europe to sanction us.”

“We should negotiate as true, friendly, brotherly Zimbabweans. No Masters from Europe, from America and we should take no dictation from them.”

This was the first time in a decade that President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai met face to face.

The three leaders all shook hands and thanked President Mbeki for his efforts.

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