Talks deadlock

* Media leaks cause friction *Deadline looms

By Tichaona Sibanda in London and Itai Dzamara in Harare
Zanu (PF) and MDC are accusing each other of leaking sensitive information to the media about the on-off peace talks. At the beginning of the negotiations in April this year, the SADC-appointed mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, swore all concerned to secrecy. But details of the discussions have made their way into the public domain throughout the process.
“People are desperate for information. Their very lives are at stake here and they have a right to know what is going on,” said a respected political commentator this week. “It is unrealistic of Mbeki to expect the talks to continue for more than six months without any details being leaked.  Mbeki seems to like secrecy – as evidenced by his failed policy of quiet diplomacy, where everything was done behind doors,” he added.
Information leaks have heightened tension among the negotiating parties, who are blaming each other for leaking ‘sensitive’ information to the media.
A source in South Africa told SW Radio Africa that the parties were wasting time haggling over who was responsible for the leaks.
Mbeki had set this Friday as the deadline for the conclusion of the negotiations between the two MDCs and Zanu (PF) but it is highly unlikely that this will be met.
Secretary for International Affairs Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro said the Accord is expected to come in two parts. He said the first would be the actual text of agreed measures between the ruling party and the two factions of the MDC. The second would be a memorandum of understanding.
“Once we get copies of these, we will convene a meeting of the national council and study the two documents. But we should emphasize from the beginning that we have kept our bargain from the start and Zanu (PF) has failed to implement any of its concessions,” Mukonoweshuro said.
Sources close to the negotiations told The Zimbabwean that Mbeki was expected to extend the deadline yet again in order to break the logjam caused by the reluctance on the part of Zanu (PF) to accept critical reforms in the electoral system as well as the political environment.  It is understood that the issue of the new constitution, which earlier was said to have been agreed on and resolved, has once again emerged to be a sticking point as the ruling party resist efforts by the opposition to have a new constitution in place before the 2008 elections.
“It is a real stalemate,” a source said. “To Zanu (PF), it is game on and the course is clear to go to next year’s elections under whatever is there in terms of the electoral framework and the political environment. But for MDC, there is a lot to be done in every aspect – the constitution, the electoral framework and the political environment.”
Zanu (PF) claims to have stopped state-sponsored violence and defends the existence of terror troops from its national training service programme as solely for developmental and training purposes.
“Zanu (PF) is not compromising on its position, which is clearly aimed at safeguarding and defending its power and election-rigging mechanisms,” said a source.
Tsvangirai issued an ultimatum last week to Zanu (PF) to stop the violence and halt the ongoing preparations by the partisan Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) using a flawed voters’ roll. But there has not been any response from the ruling party.  

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