Mbeki no longer part of talks — Tsvangirai

HARARE – Former South African president Thabo Mbeki is not welcome to attend the power-sharing talks due to start in Harare tomorrow because he was biased and too soft on Robert Mugabe.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change, told the Sunday Times that Mbeki was no longer part of the mediation efforts because he was biased and too soft on 84-year-old Robert Mugabe.

“Our relationship with Mbeki has irretrievably broken down and as far as I am concerned SADC chairman and South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and the SADC itself are in charge of dealing with mediation efforts,” he said.

The relationship between Mbeki and the MDC became untenable in November last year when Mbeki, in a letter dated November 2, accused the MDC of not respecting decisions made by African leaders.

Tsvangirai took offence at the tone of the letter, and in response wrote to Motlanthe as SADC chairman, accusing Mbeki of being biased against his party.

Another senior member of the MDC said: “I don’t know who invited him or what he is going to do. He can go to Harare, but we have nothing to do with him.

“The talks are between Tsvangirai, Motlanthe and Mugabe. Period.”

Mbeki’s spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said Tsvangirai should raise his issues with Mbeki with the SADC, which had appointed him as mediator.

“But if in future SADC comes and says you are no longer mediator, then he will not impose himself,” said Ratshitanga.

Tsvangirai returned home for the first time in over two months yesterday.

“I’m very glad to be back home,” he said as he was mobbed by supporters while being escorted to a waiting vehicle.

The MDC leader left Zimbabwe on November 10 for self-imposed exile in Botswana after the Mugabe regime refused to renew his passport.

Although Mugabe gave him a passport on Christmas Day, Tsvangirai did not return as he was advised that his personal safety could not be guaranteed.

Tsvangirai has now returned home for talks on the deadlock in a power-sharing agreement reached last September but never implemented.

Mbeki was scheduled to attend the talks along with Motlanthe and the president of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza.

The MDC national council was due to meet today to discuss the pending talks.

Tsangirai vowed yesterday that he would not join a coalition government if his party’s demands were not fully met.

“I must emphasise that we are not going to be bullied into joining a government that does not represent the people,” he said when he arrived in the country.

He added that he hoped tomorrow’s meeting would deliver an “acceptable, inclusive government”.

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that the UN Children’s Fund will give 5-million to Zimbabwe’s ailing health sector to help bring striking doctors back to work to fight the worsening cholera epidemic. — SOURCE: Sunday Times, Additional reporting by Sapa