Progress in unity talks – MDC

Johannesburg – Zimbabwe's opposition on Thursday reported progress in negotiations with President Robert Mugabe's party on forming a unity government after the two sides held talks in South Africa.

"I am glad to say that yesterday (Wednesday) when they finally met in South Africa, there seems to be some progress," Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told South African public broadcaster SA FM.

He declined to give further details.

Chamisa said negotiators from the MDC and Mugabe’s Zanu-PF discussed the allocation of key ministries, one of the main stumbling blocks toward implementing a power-sharing accord reached last year.

Other issues included legislation defining the functions of the security services. Mugabe has been accused of using the security services to intimidate the opposition.

Zimbabwe’s parliament is expected on Thursday to take up constitutional amendments which would pave the way for the formation of a unity government, party officials said.

The changes would include the creation of the post of prime minister, which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to fill.

Debate on the amendments had been postponed Wednesday to allow negotiators more time to discuss outstanding issues.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc last month set a February 5 deadline for parliament to pass the necessary constitutional amendments to allow for the unity government.

They also set a February 11 deadline for the swearing in of Tsvangirai as prime minister.

Ministers and deputy ministers are scheduled to be sworn in on February 13 to conclude the formation of the unity government. – AFP