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Mugabe & Tsvangirai 'poles apart'

By Godfrey Marawanyika

HARARE — President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are “poles apart” on key unity government issues, a minister said Monday after Zimbabwe’s feuding leaders failed to break a 10-day deadlock.

“The principals met. Sadly and tragically the stalemate continues,” cabinet minister and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spokesman Nelson Chamisa told AFP. “We are poles apart on fundamental issues.”

The three-hour talks were the first between the long-term rivals since Tsvangirai shelved ties with Mugabe’s “dishonest and unreliable” camp on October 16, sparking a crisis in the fragile, eight-month partnership.

The yawning gap between the two sides was demonstrated ahead of the encounter, with the Mugabe camp stressing that the talks were a “regular meeting” and Tsvangirai’s camp insisting they were anything but.

“This is a regular Monday meeting and they will discuss the issues of the GPA (Global Political Agreement),” which underpins the government, Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba said.

Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told AFP that “This is not a regular meeting. The meeting will discuss the issue of disengagement and the other outstanding issues related to the Global Political Agreement.”

Chamisa said the party was now waiting for a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Harare on Thursday to unblock the impasse.

“If that fails… a free and fair election under the supervision of the international community, SADC and the African Union will be the only option. They are facing east and we are facing west,” he said.

Following his party’s cutting of ties, Tsvangirai snubbed last week’s regular meeting with Mugabe and embarked on a regional tour to appeal for southern African leaders to intervene in the stand-off.

The Movement for Democratic Change leader has said he will only resume cooperation once all outstanding issues are resolved, which include wrangles over key posts and a crackdown on his supporters.

The two leaders agreed to form a unity government in February after disputed polls saw the 85-year-old Mugabe handed victory in a one-man presidential run-off last June.

Zimbabwe’s pact has managed to arrest Zimbabwe’s stunning economic collapse and seen a relaxing of international ties, amid calls for greater signs of reforms from Mugabe.

On Saturday, the state-run Herald newspaper quoted the veteran ZANU-PF leader, who has ruled since 1980, as vowing not to give in to the MDC’s demands.

“We will not do that. They can go to any summit, any part of the world to appeal. That will not happen,” Mugabe was quoted as saying.

The compromise government’s work has been plagued by disputes over the appointment of provincial governors, and Mugabe’s unilateral re-appointment of central bank chief Gideon Gono and attorney-general Johannes Tomana.

The decision to suspend ties was sparked by the renewed detention of ministerial designate Roy Bennett, now out on bail, who faces a terrorism trial.

On Saturday, the MDC, which claims its lawmakers are being targeted, said members of ZANU-PF and security forces opposed to the unity rule were behind a raid on a party house.

Armed police raided the house, claiming they were searching for weapons.

On Thursday, SADC’s body on politics, defence and security will discuss the stand-off which comes just a year after the bloc brokered the signing of the power-sharing accord last September.

An MDC splinter faction that is also part of the unity government said the latest talks were a step in the right direction despite reaching no conclusion.

“At least now they are talking. These people were not talking. We are hopeful that a solution will be found eventually,” said spokesman Edwin Mushoriwa. Source: AFP

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