MDC snub forces Mbeki to call off key meeting

HARARE – FORMER South African president Thabo Mbeki, the mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis, had no option yesterday, but to cancel a meeting of ZANU-PF and MDC negotiators he had called to discuss Draft Amendment Bill Number 19, amid indications that the MDC resolved to snub the SADC-appointed troublesh-ooter.

Draft Amendment Number 19, which formalises the posts of prime minister and two deputies was completed at the behest of SADC to facilitate the establishment of a unity government in Zimbabwe.

The Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal that on Tuesday Mbeki asked the negotiators to converge in Johannesburg for a meeting that was scheduled to be held yesterday to deliberate on the Draft Amendment Bill made available to him by the authorities in Harare, but the MDC resolved to boycott any further SADC initiatives until the regional body addresses what the party regards as critical outstanding issues.

Sources in Pretoria said Mbeki, who was eager to have a new government in Zimbabwe as early as possible, reluctantly postponed the meeting to next Monday after being informed that the MDC’S chief negotiator, Tendai Biti had prior engagements in the United States.

“The facilitator had invited the ZANU-PF and MDC negotiators to Johannesburg for a meeting, which was supposed to take place today (Wednesday), but he has deferred it to Monday after MDC-T said its chief negotiator will not be available,” said the sources.
The same sources said Biti had indicated he would only be available either on Monday or Tuesday next week.

Biti, however, told The Financial Gazette that MDC negotiators would not attend the Monday or any further meetings involving the power-sharing agreement until SADC rescinds its resolution and shows “seriousness” about resolving the Zimbabwean crisis.

“Our national executive council rejected the SADC resolution that the three political parties should form a government. So we are not meeting anyone as we have a problem with the SADC resolution,” said Biti.

“We cannot legitimise an illegal and ill-conceived SADC resolution by meeting anyone in South Africa. As MDC negotiators, we have no mandate to meet anyone in South Africa on any SADC business as the SADC resolution was rejected by the party’s national executive council. I repeat we are not meeting anyone,” he said.

Biti denied asking for the postponement of yesterday’s meeting until Monday on the pretext that he was travelling to the USA. “It’s just a blue lie. I am not going anywhere. I am in Harare and will be in Dotito while they meet in South Africa. The truth of the matter is that we are not going to that meeting. We have stated our position and we are not going anywhere and are not meeting anyone,” said Biti.

The Financial Gazette is reliably informed that both ZANU-PF and MDC-M strongly believe the Tsvangirai camp and particularly Biti, is deliberately sabotaging the talks. “SADC leaders know our position and that we are committed to the power-sharing arrangement, but pretend not to know,” said Biti, denying any intention to sabotage the negotiations.

After its national executive council meeting last Friday the MDC-T said it would only enter into a coalition government only after the Constitutional Amendment Number 19 has been passed into law and other six allegedly outstanding issues have been ironed out, including the issue of the appointment of the 10 provincial governors and other senior government officials such as permanent secretaries and ambassadors.

The MDC-T has also raised an issue over the alleged alterations to the power-sharing agreement signed by the three parties on September 15.

Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga, the deputy secretary general of the MDC-M, confirmed they were due to meet yesterday, but the meeting had been moved to next week. “Yes, we were supposed to meet sometime this week in South Africa, but the meeting has been postponed to next week,” said Misihairambwi-Mushonga.
“The purpose was to look at draft Amendment Number 19,” she said.

Patrick Chinamasa, the ZANU-PF chief negotiator, was not immediately available for comment. But it is understood ZANU-PF wants the draft passed with speed in parliament to facilitate the formation of a new government.