Mugabe ready to engage West, as power-sharing talks drag on

Mugabe ready to engage West, as power-sharing talks drag on

BULAWAYO - President Robert Mugabe is willing to re-engage the West over Zimbabwe's crisis, a government spokesman said as negotiations to end political turmoil in the southern African country continued on Tuesday with little to suggest a deal could be reached anytime soon.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told ZimOnline on Tuesday that Mugabe was ready for dialogue with his Western critics, challenging the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) to open dialogue with “the person in charge” in Zimbabwe rather than resort to ineffectual sanctions.

Matonga said: “It’s best engaging Zimbabwe over the political situation as sanctions and condemnation is arrogance and does not change the situation.
If it is to do with Zimbabwe genuinely and if they have the country at heart, they should speak to the person in charge.

“It’s only fair to do so and President Mugabe is willing to engage the West over the Zimbabwe political question. The President is ready to talk to the West as anything other than engagement will not be fair and would not bring a solution.”

Western countries imposed sanctions against Mugabe’s government six years ago as punishment for his controversial programme to seize white-owned farmland for redistribution to landless blacks, stealing elections and failure to uphold human rights and the rule of law.

Brussels and Washington that have cut all aid to Zimbabwe – except humanitarian support – say they will adopt tougher measures against Harare if power-sharing talks between Mugabe and the opposition do not produce an agreement reflecting the outcome of a March 29 election won by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party.

The March vote is widely regarded as more credible than a second round run-off poll on June 27 won by Mugabe who was the only candidate after Tsvangirai pulled out because of state-sponsored violence against his supporters. Western nations and several African countries have refused to recognise the June poll.

Power-sharing talks resumed on Monday but officials from MDC and Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF party told reporters privately that chances of signing a deal were remote despite a new proposal presented by talks mediator South African President Thabo Mbeki to try to break a deadlock over how to share executive power in a government of national unity.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai agree he should remain president while the opposition leader becomes prime minister but are hopelessly divided over how to split power between them.

“It is highly unlikely that a deal will be signed today (Tuesday),” a senior MDC official told ZimOnline on Tuesday.

He added: “Despite the Mbeki proposal we remain bogged down on the same issue of how to divide power between the president and the prime minister as well as on the issue of how long a government of national unity should stay in power before fresh elections.”

A ZANU PF official was also downbeat about the talks blaming the failure to make meaningful progress on what he said were “attempts by the MDC to use the talks as a means not to share power but to virtually make the President
(Mugabe) redundant by transferring all power from him to Tsvangirai.”

Analysts say only a government of national unity could be able to tackle Zimbabwe’s long-running crisis marked by political violence and a bitter recession seen in the world’s highest inflation of more than 11 million percent, 80 percent unemployment, shortages of food and basic commodities.

Western donor nations whose financial support is vital to any effort to revive Zimbabwe’s crumbled economy have said they would back a unity government only if its executive head is Tsvangirai.

– ZimOnline

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