Talks still deadlocked and Mbeki must go – Tsvangirai

JOHANNESBURG, (Reuters) – Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Wednesday that there was no progress in talks on implementing a power-sharing deal with Robert Mugabe's ruling party.

Tsvangirai also said in a statement that Thabo Mbeki should recuse himself as mediator.

A letter written to Morgan Tsvangirai by the mediator, former president Thabo Mbeki has irked the Zimbabwean opposition party threatening the ongoing unit talks.

Party insiders said the letter, dated November 22, had so upset the MDC that officials had sought an audience with President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is also current chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In the 10-page letter, which is a response to a letter sent by MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti, Mbeki made comments that did not go down well with the MDC, sensitive to the common Zanu PF accusation that it took its cue from the west.

Biti had described the decision on Zimbabwe taken by the extraordinary SADC summit earlier this week as “a nullity”, a rejection that appeared to have irked Mbeki.

“It may be that, for whatever reason, you consider our region and continent as being of little consequence to the future of Zimbabwe, believing that others further away, in western Europe and North America, are of greater importance,” Mbeki wrote.

The SADC meeting compelled Zanu PF and the MDC to seek ways of jointly running the much-contested home affairs ministry, a position rejected by the MDC. Mbeki, whom the MDC has long accused of bias, said the MDC did not respect decisions made by African leaders.

“Realistically, Zimbabwe will never share the same neighbourhood with the countries of western Europe and North America, and therefore secure its success on the basis of friendship with these, and contempt for the decisions of its immediate African neighbours,” Mbeki went on.

He also accused the MDC of publicly denouncing SADC leaders as “cowards”.

“Such manner of proceeding might earn you prominent media headlines. However, I assure you that it will do nothing to solve the problems of Zimbabwe,” Mbeki said.

He also told Tsvangirai that in accepting large numbers of Zimbabwean exiles, “in a spirit of solidarity”, neighbouring countries had displayed no characteristics of cowardice.

The parties were also at odds about the scope of yesterday’s negotiations.

Sources said Mugabe’s negotiators from Zanu PF insisted they were in SA only to discuss an amendment of the constitution to facilitate implementation of the power-sharing pact as recommended by SADC.

But Tsvangirai’s MDC faction wanted to include a far wider number of issues, including the distribution of ministries, the appointment of provincial governors, top government officials and diplomats, the composition and function of the National Security Council and the correction of “fraudulent changes” to the original power-sharing agreement