Last-ditch effort to move Zimbabwe talks forward
As dispute persists in wake of presidential election, the country seems poised between negotiated settlement and outright civil war.
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That is not the case between Mugabe – who controls the Zimbabwean military, police, judiciary, and intelligence services, as well as several private militias – and Tsvangirai, who merely has the support of Zimbabwean voters. Mugabe and his generals seem to be using the same tactics used against Mugabe's rivals in the 1980s, the ZAPU party of Joshua Nkomo. "He crushed ZAPU, and when it was weakened, he made them junior partners. You beat on their heads enough till they do things your way."Skip to next paragraph
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On Friday, the United Nations Security Council delayed a vote on tougher sanctions against top members of Mugabe's inner circle. Zimbabwe's representative at the UN wrote to the Security Council that such sanctions would likely undermine the present government of Zimbabwe and "most probably start a civil war in the country." Sanctions would also turn the UN into a "force multiplier in support of Britain's colonial crusade against Zimbabwe."
Mugabe's ZANU-PF fought a 10-year war against British colonial rule, which ended in the dissolution of white-ruled Rhodesia and the creation of the new black-ruled Zimbabwe. Both in this year's elections and in Tsvangirai's previous bid for president in 2003, Mugabe derided the opposition leader as a "stooge" of British colonial rule.
Within Zimbabwe itself, violence against opposition members continues. On July 5, the burned body of an MDC driver, Joshua Bakacheza, was discovered on a farm near the town of Beatrice. Bakacheza was last seen in the custody of state security agents, along with MDC activist Tendai Chidziwo. Mr. Chidziwo and Bakacheza were ambushed by armed men and driven to an Army-owned farm before being shot. Chidziwo is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.
Last week, South Africa's deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, said that Zimbabwe would have to end the violence if it wanted talks to succeed. "If is up to Zimbabwe to take immediate steps to stop the violence," Mr. Pahad told reporters. "If they do not stop it, we will take action, whatever action is possible to stop it."
Even opposition leaders who are currently engaged in talks with Mugabe say that Zimbabwe is perched at the edge of political chaos, if talks fail.
"What is imperative for Zimbabweans is making up their minds on whether they want an armed revolution or they want to talk to each other," wrote Arthur Mutambara, who leads a split-away faction of the MDC, in an opinion piece in the Zimbabwean newspaper. Mr. Mutambara met Mugabe in Harare for talks sponsored by President Mbeki. Tsvangirai boycotted the talks. "Of course, if negotiations do not succeed there will be only one option left to the people of Zimbabwe. We will fight."