MDC to stick to demands in talks with Robert Mugabe

South Africa President Jacob Zuma suggested the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) be flexible in demanding the removal of some senior government officials to help the talks aimed at saving the country’s power-sharing government.

"I am the least qualified to comment on what President Zuma says, but we would want all issues resolved, as they are fundamental in our view," said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

The MDC wants Mugabe to fire central bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, saying their appointments were unconstitutional.

Saturday’s talks follow inconclusive rounds mediated by South Africa, but Zuma said he was hopeful of progress in the latest session, a view not shared by Chamisa.

"It would be difficult for us to associate (the talks) with progress. We are still seeking sincerity on the part of the Zanu PF people," the MDC spokesman said.

The establishment of the coalition government last February followed a decade of recession and political turmoil that led to acute shortages of all basic commodities and rampant inflation.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)-brokered power sharing government has brought some signs of economic and political stability to Zimbabwe, though there are disagreements between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

The MDC is 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.

The MDC has described the charges against Bennett as trumped up.

Mugabe’s party has accused the MDC of reneging on its commitment to persuade the US and the European Union to lift travel bans and asset freezes against its leaders imposed in 2002 following a spate of human rights abuses and repression targeting the opposition.

The SADC said the standoff has dragged on long enough. Some of its leaders met in neighbouring Mozambique on Thursday and praised the efforts of Zuma, the SADC facilitator for Zimbabwe, to revive the flagging unity government.