Zuma calls for Tsvangirai to surrender to Robert Mugabe

Cape Town – Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai must be flexible in demanding the removal of some officials to help talks aimed at saving a power-sharing accord with President Robert Mugabe, South African President Jacob Zuma said.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party wants Mugabe to fire central bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, saying their appointments were unconstitutional.

Are these issues “so fundamental that we cannot move without” resolving them? Zuma said in an interview broadcast on state-owned SAFM in Johannesburg on Friday. “Can we park them and proceed?”

The parties will seek to resolve their differences at talks due to begin on Saturday in the capital, Harare. Previous rounds of discussions mediated by the South African government have ended inconclusively.

The impasse between Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and Tsvangirai’s MDC has frustrated regional mediators, such as Zuma, and dissuaded Western donors from helping to rebuild the nation’s shattered economy.

Zuma said he was “positive and hopeful” of progress in the negotiation. “I’m sure the Zimbabweans have to open up and look at the issues from all angles,” he said.

Decade of Recession

The establishment of the unity government in February followed a decade of recession and political turmoil, which slashed exports, pushed inflation to a record and drove millions of Zimbabweans into exile in neighboring countries.

Zimbabwe’s economic decline has been stemmed since the MDC assumed control over most key economic posts. The finance ministry expects growth to accelerate to 7 percent this year, from about 4.7 percent last year.

The MDC is also demanding the power to appoint some regional governors and wants Mugabe to swear in Roy Bennett, currently on trial for terrorism-related charges, as deputy agriculture minister. It has described the case against Bennett, who has denied any wrongdoing, as “trumped up.”

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has accused the MDC of reneging on its commitment to persuade the U.S. and European Union to lift travel bans and asset freezes against its leaders.

‘Superficial Agreement’

“What we have is a very superficial agreement,” George Katito, a researcher at the South African Institute for International Affairs in Pretoria, said yesterday in an phone interview. “Many of the contentious issues are still very much in place and there doesn’t seem to be sufficient goodwill, particularly on the side of ZANU-PF, to make the government work.”

The Southern African Development Community, which brokered the power-sharing deal, says the standoff has dragged on long enough.

“With regards to the pace of negotiations and the pace of events, nobody is happy,” Oldemiro Baloi, chairman of the 15- nation regional grouping’s politics, defense and security committee, said in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, on Jan. 8. “We want the talks to conclude as soon as possible.”

SADC succeeded in persuading Tsvangirai to reverse his Oct. 16 decision to withdraw from the ruling coalition.

“The MDC isn’t going to pull out of this government or the talks,” Elton Mangoma, Tsvangirai’s deputy chief negotiator, said by telephone on Jan. 13 from Harare. “It’d be naive to say we don’t expect disagreements, but I don’t think there’s anything that can’t be negotiated or reconciled.”

Several calls to ZANU-PF negotiator Nicholas Goche  on Friday and to the party’s head office went unanswered.

“There is a lot of international interest in Zimbabwe at the moment and regional pressure” on the parties to work together, Katito said. “There is incentive to show they are making progress.” Bloomberg