Food crisis our top priority – Tsvangirai


* Talks suspended until SADC summit * Zimbabweans voice their disappointment *

BY STAFF REPORTER

HARARE – President Morgan Tsvangirai has expressed shock at the high level of starvation countrywide and pledged that once in government, the MDC would place the food crisis as a top priority issue.

Tsvangirai addressed three report-back rallies in Marondera and Manicaland on October 25 and 26. The people narrated harrowing experiences of how they go for days without food and are surviving on wild fruits.

Tsvangirai said he was saddened and told the crowd told that the levels of hunger had reached unprecedented levels.

The Zanu (PF) regime has barred most aid organisations from distributing food

aid in the country. Tsvangirai said the MDC was still committed to the power sharing

deal with Zanu (PF) provided that ministries were shared equitably.

President Tsvangirai has been addressing feed back rallies across the country explaining the party’s position on the political settlement signed by the three principals of the major political parties on September 15, 2008.

Talks suspended until SADC summit

BY CHIEF REPORTER

HARARE – SADC has shown its impotence in dealing with the intransigence of Zanu (PF)’s ageing leader Robert Mugabe. This was the abiding view when an exasperated SADC troika suspended talks about the formation of a power-sharing government in Zimbabwe until Mugabe’s party agrees to implement a plan signed by the two sides on September 15.

Following a meeting of the South African and Mozambican presidents, the Swaziland Prime Minister, the Angolan Foreign Minister and the principals of Zimbabwe’s three main political parties on October 27, the leaders issued a communiqué announcing that dialogue on establishing a coalition cabinet has been suspended.

The communiqué urged all SADC leaders to hold a “summit to further review the current political situation in Zimbabwe as a matter of urgency.”

SADC executive secretary, Tomaz Salamao told reporters that it was not yet clear where and when the emergency meeting would be held but emphasized that it would be soon.

Monday’s meeting urged Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara “to genuinely commit themselves to finding a lasting solution to the current deadlock.”

There was no progress at all. It is now crystal clear to the country that Zanu (PF) is extremely reluctant to honour the accord in the first place. Since the signing of the global agreement, President Mugabe and Zanu have demonstrated contempt for and reluctance to forming a coalition government as the constitution demands and the people of Zimbabwe expect them to do,” MDC secretary general and lead negotiator for the MDC, Tendai Biti said.

Tsvangirai, who is set to take up the newly created position of Prime Minister, has accused President Mugabe of backtracking on commitments regarding the composition of the Cabinet and the extent of power-sharing in government positions.

According to sources, Mugabe insisted in Monday’s meeting that Zanu (PF) retains control of every important ministry, including defence, co-ministering home affairs with the MDC, and also retaining control of justice, foreign affairs, information and local government ministries. He said he was prepared to surrender only the finance ministry to the MDC. Tsvangirai rejected this, leading to the collapse of the talks.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, the chief negotiator for Zanu (PF), said President Mugabe and the party remained committed to reaching an agreement as soon as possible.

The MDC leader said Zanu (PF) did not want the MDC to run the police because they are afraid of being investigated for corruption and theft of state property.

We have no plan to arrest anyone, Tsvangirai said. Zanu (PF) must understand we have no intention of embarking on a retributive agenda.

SADC leaders conceded that the power-sharing structure that Mbeki and Mugabe had colluded to was skewed and unfair to the MDC, but were too intimidated by Mugabe’s stature to put this point across effectively. The decision to refer the case to a full SADC summit was unanimous.

“It is urgent to resolve the ongoing political impasse so that recovery can begin,” UN Chief Ban Ki-moon said. “The secretary general remains distressed about the growing human cost of the crisis in Zimbabwe, in particular given the signs that the humanitarian

situation in the country may worsen in the course of 2008 and 2009.”

Whatever the outcome of the Cabinet discussions, the episode has raised serious concerns about how well a coalition government will be able to operate, given the distrust that persists between the two sides.

Zimbabweans voice their disappointment

BY STAFF REPORTER

HARARE – Amid continued deadlock and the threat of renewed violence in the crisis-torn country, a cross section of Zimbabweans this week urged President Robert Mugabe and his political rival Morgan Tsvangirai to honour their pledge to conclude a power-sharing agreement.

Zimbabweans expressed disappointment after Mugabe and Tsvangirai failed to name a

working cabinet after an emergency summit of regional leaders ended in failure on October 27.

Dr Ibbo Mandaza, a prominent academic in Harare said it was time for international intervention.

“The regional and international community has to intervene; I don’t mean militarily, I mean they need to be more assertive in what needs to be done. It’s incumbent on Mbeki, who brokered the deal, to ensure it is implemented,” Mandaza said.

Mandaza said the parties should have concluded the issue of Cabinet posts before the signing ceremony.

“It is clear Morgan signed on the basis of good faith, but there is no good faith on the part of Mugabe,” Mandaza added.

University student Lazarus Makusha said he was disappointed by the failure of leadership necessary to resolve all the remaining issues.

“There can be no excuse for further delay given the hardships in the country,” Makusha said.

Vegetable vendor, Tracy Musara, said that there is need for both parties to get their acts

together.

“The people are really disappointed; they were expecting some announcement this week so that the country could move forward, she said.

While hope dissipates, regional leaders referred the matter to a full SADC summit.

“SADC doesn’t have the balls to deal with Mugabe,” a Chitungwiza resident said. “I think its high time SADC punishes Mugabe and make it clear that they will not accept his nonsense.”

“We will draw our own conclusions about who is responsible for lack of progress and take necessary steps,” a Western diplomat said. “We will also exert leadership with the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and others to ensure that the political solution the Zimbabwean people deserve is achieved.”

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