Could unity government talks eclipse Zimbabwe runoff vote?
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was invited for talks with President Robert Mugabe, says a top official. Would the talks negate a runoff presidential election scheduled for June 27.
Johannesburg, South Africa
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The trip was timed for a celebration of his party's gaining a parliamentary majority in the March 29 elections and to gear up for the newly announced June 27 presidential runoff vote.
But a senior member of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party tells the Monitor that he had met with Mr. Tsvangirai over the weekend in Johannesburg, and that Tsvangirai had indicated that he had been invited back to Harare to begin power-sharing talks with Mr. Mugabe himself.
These would be the highest-level talks yet, and could pave the way for a political settlement that would avoid a runoff that most observers say will not be free and fair.
"[Tsvangirai] said he had been approached by the ZANU-PF and they were prepared to forgo a runoff in favor of establishing a government of national unity," says Dumiso Dabengwa, a former Zimbabwe chief of intelligence and current member of ZANU-PF's politburo, and one of the leading ZANU-PF officials to turn against Mugabe in support of independent candidate Simba Makoni.
"I said: 'Please don't hesitate. Take it up, and let's get on with the negotiation,' " says Mr. Dabengwa. But hearing minutes later on the news that Tsvangirai had canceled his trip in fear of his life, Dabengwa could only shake his head. "What we want is Mugabe out," he says, "but we have this impossible character [Tsvangirai], and we have to swallow this bitter pill to support this fellow. If he doesn't go back now, he will lose face."
Glimmers of hope
By most appearances, Zimbabwe's post-election crisis would seem no closer to resolution. Attacks against opposition activists by pro-Mugabe militias continue, and leaders of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC) insist that they won the presidential vote outright. But behind the uncompromising positions, there are glimmers of hope that the two parties are quietly negotiating.
"Now there is a real possibility of a government of national unity," says Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe.
ZANU-PF insiders say that Mugabe's support continues to erode, and that aside from a small coterie of Mugabe's advisers – and of course the roving bands of pro-Mugabe militias – there are few voices in ZANU-PF who think that violence will do any more good.