Feuding Zimbabwe parties close to deal

Sources close to the talks said negotiators from Zanu PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations who have been meeting in secrecy since November 23 had agreed on a raft of media reforms.

Authoritative sources now say Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has essentially capitulated on matters before the negotiating team in the ongoing talks and an announcement is likely to be made within a fortnight after a report from Jacob Zuma is presented to the Southern African sub-body charged with ensuring that the talks proceed timeously.

On the Governors, Mugabe is also said to have won out on the basis that SADC’s communique of January this year had simply called for the parties to "decide the formula for the distribution of government posts."
Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana are remaining where they are and Tsvangirai is said now to have abandoned moves he had started to make a deal by asking Mugabe to get rid of Gideon Gono in exchange for Tsvangirai’s party dropping its objection to Attorney General Johannes Tomana’s appointment.
Names for the Zimbabwe Media Commission have already been decided between Mugabe and the MDC-T leader/Prime Minister. 

An announcement is also expected early this week on the establishment of media, human rights, anti-corruption and electoral commissions as spelt out in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed last year.

The parties have also agreed on the issue of provincial governors and they will now work on the dates for implementation.

A total of 27 items have been placed on the agenda and the most divisive include Robert Mugabe’s unilateral appointment of his cronies to head the central bank and the attorney general’s office.

The respected Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported that the negotiators have already gone over 15 items, agreeing on 12 of them.

They have also agreed to put the issue of the appointment of MDC treasurer general Mr Roy Bennett who is facing terrorism and banditry charges on hold until they agree on the matters because they fear it could jeopardize the talks.

President Mugabe has refused to swear in Mr Bennett as deputy Agriculture minister until he is cleared of the charges, which his party says were trumped up.

The negotiations gathered pace last week after South African President Jacob Zuma sent a new facilitation team that met the principals in the unity government –President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara – and urged them to respect a regional timeline.

Mr Tsvangirai and his MDC on November 5 ended their boycott of the unity government after an emergency summit of the Southern African Development Community.

The party had given Mr Mugabe 30 days to fully implement the GPA but the deadline passed on Saturday without any major announcement.

South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team will return tomorrow following indications that the feuding parties in the unity government are making progress towards the resolution of outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

Negotiators from Zanu PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have reportedly found common ground on media reforms and the appointment of provincial governors.

The negotiators were meeting the whole day yesterday and the sources said they were in agreement on a number of issues except on the position of President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba.

MDC-T wants Charamba to be stopped from issuing divisive statements, which they say threaten the unity government.

This is one of a range of thorny disputes that have emerged since the formation of the unity government in February this year.

Zulu, who along with Charles Nqakula and Mac Maharaj were recently appointed by Zuma to replace former President Thabo Mbeki’s facilitation team, said it was only the facilitators who were returning for a more comprehensive assessment of the negotiations.

"I do not know where the story of the president is coming from," she said.

"The President appointed a facilitation team, and that team is going back to Zimbabwe to get a fuller report. We are coming over on Monday."

Despite the list of outstanding issues reported to be growing longer, Zulu said from their preliminary visit a week ago, they were convinced there was progress.

"We are comfortable with the fact they have been talking since we left. All those meetings have been successful.

"I don’t want to get into those issues (details of the outstanding issues and the expanding list), it’s their issues.

"Whether they are expanding or not, the most important thing is that they are meeting and making progress."

Zulu said Zuma could not make an assessment of the progress so far.

"He cannot be making any assessment now because we are still to give him a report.

"I cannot say when that will happen, because before we even get the report, the negotiators will have to present it to their principals.

"We will also receive the full report after the negotiators have met their principals."

She said progress should not be measured by the number of issues resolved so far, but through the commitment of all the parties.

"In our first visit, we came at a time when they had just started their meetings.

"The fact that they have been meeting since we left gives us confidence that they are making progress."

"The problem is not just about outstanding issues; it is about dealing with the challenge that is currently in Zimbabwe."

After receiving a report from the facilitators, Zuma will the consult Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, the chairman of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security on the way forward.