MDC urges SADC leaders to rein in beligerant Robert Mugabe

HARARE – Zimbabwe's main opposition called on regional powers on Monday to pressure President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party to be more flexible in power-sharing talks.\r\n

Negotiations between the two sides ended at the weekend without a deal, but a spokesperson for South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating the talks, said they were still alive.

"We hope the SADC and President Thabo Mbeki are going to play the umpire role and help to have flexibility on the part of Zanu-PF," said Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change.

The regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) appointed Mbeki as mediator in July.

"Zanu-PF has to be persuaded to be rational and put the people first. The dialogue is not just about power. It has to go beyond that," Chamisa said.

"They (Zanu-PF) are not committed to finding a solution to the problems bedevilling the country. All they want is power," he added.

The talks, which began in July, have stalled amid differences about how to share executive powers between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a national unity government.

The rival parties returned home from South Africa at the weeken after Mbeki’s attempt to kick-start the talks failed.

Mbeki had separate talks with negotiators from both camps on Friday. His spokesperson said on Monday that the talks would continue, but declined to say when or how they would resume.

"The mediation and the talks continue, it is an ongoing process.

Don’t listen to the insinuations that the talks broke down," spokesperson Mukoni Rashitanga said.

Mugabe has threatened to form a new government without the MDC if the impasse continues.

The 84-year-old leader, in power since independence in 1980, was re-elected in June in a one-man presidential run-off after Tsvangirai, victor in the first round, bowed out amid widespread electoral violence. – sapa