MDC will boycott Mbeki meeting:source

HARARE – Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) could boycott a meeting to discuss a constitutional bill that would allow President Robert Mugabe to form a unity government, an opposition official said on Sunday.

A power-sharing agreement signed by Mugabe and opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai on September15 has faltered as the two fight over control of key ministries.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who brokered the deal, has called for a meeting in South Africa this week where the parties would review proposed constitutional changes giving effect to a power-sharing government.

But Tsvangirai’s MDC, which has refused to join the unity government until its demands are met — including full control of the home affairs ministry overseeing the police — has responded coolly to Mbeki’s invitation.

A senior party source told Reuters some officials wanted the MDC to boycott the meeting in protest against the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) stance on the dispute between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the MDC.

"There is a strong feeling that attending the meeting would legitimise a SADC resolution rejected by the party. We cannot continue engaging in this process when SADC and Mbeki refuse to take our legitimate concerns seriously," the source said.

"Tsvangirai does not want a boycott of the meeting, but other officials, led by secretary general Tendai Biti, don’t want that meeting to go ahead until SADC rescinds its decision."

SADC has recommended that Mugabe and Tsvangirai jointly control the home affairs ministry and that a unity government be set up "forthwith." The MDC accuses the bloc of siding with Mugabe.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Reuters the party’s leadership would meet in Harare on Monday to decide on whether to attend the latest round of negotiations.

"The party’s leadership will meet on Monday to map the way forward," Chamisa said.

"It is our view that our negotiating teams can meet here, without going to Pretoria. We continue to insist that there are more issues remaining, apart from the constitutional amendment."

The MDC has said it was not consulted when the constitutional bill was drafted, dismissing it as a "ZANU-PF draft."

Tsvangirai, who was still in South Africa on Sunday, would not take part in the MDC’s meeting, his spokesman George Sibotshiwe said.

"He has meetings lined up throughout Monday, here in South Africa," Sibotshiwe said.

Analysts say the historic power-sharing pact, signed on September15, presents the best hope of rescuing Zimbabwe’s ruined economy. The agreement, however, appears to be unravelling over unresolved differences between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. Reuters