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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Zimbabwe leaders agree talks pact

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handshake.jpgPresident Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have
signed a deal outlining a framework for talks on Zimbabwe’s political
crisis.

It says that talks on a power-sharing arrangement should be completed within two weeks of its signing.

Discussions will focus on security, and the political and economic priorities of the new government.

Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai have been locked in a bitter dispute over this year’s presidential polls.

Under
the terms of the agreement, each party will be expected to do
everything possible to stop all forms of political violence and refrain
from making inflammatory statements.

The BBC’s southern Africa
correspondent Peter Biles, in Johannesburg, says the deal is a
breakthrough, even if it is only a first step.

He says Mr
Mugabe seemed to be in conciliatory – and sometimes good-humoured –
mood as he made the unprecedented move of appearing with his arch-rival
in front of the media.

Mr Mugabe insists that he must be
recognised as Zimbabwe’s president – a position rejected by the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mr
Tsvangirai, the MDC’s leader, garnered more votes in an initial
presidential poll in March, but election officials said there was no
outright winner and called for a run-off.

Mr Mugabe won the
run-off – but he was the only candidate after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew,
accusing the government of mounting a campaign of violence against his
supporters.

‘Bitter words’

The document was
signed at a Harare hotel during the first meeting between Mr Mugabe and
Mr Tsvangirai in a decade. The pair then shook hands.

Arthur Mutambara, who leads a breakaway faction of the MDC, also signed the agreement.

Mr
Tsvangirai said that in signing the deal – an occasion he described as
historic – he and Mr Mugabe were committing themselves to the "first
tentative step towards searching for a solution".

He said many
"bitter words" had been exchanged, but all all parties must exercise
tolerance and work together if they wanted progress.
Mr Mugabe said the two sides had agreed that the country’s constitution needed to be amended on various points.

"We sit here in order for us to chart a new way, a new way of political interaction," he said.

Mr
Mugabe praised South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, who helped broker
the deal, but insisted that it would be Zimbabweans who resolved the
crisis – without the influence of Europe or the US.

He has
previously accused Mr Tsvangirai of being a puppet of Western powers –
particularly the UK, Zimbabwe’s former colonial master.

A US
state department spokesman said it supported any talks that would lead
to a result reflecting the "will of the Zimbabwean people".

UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the deal and urged all
sides "to engage, in good faith, in serious talks that would lead to a
lasting solution".

Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union
(AU), congratulated the parties on the deal and encouraged them to
"build on this positive development".

New elections call

The MDC has previously accused Mr Mbeki of being biased in favour of Mr Mugabe.

The
fact that the AU and United Nations joined the South African mediation
efforts was crucial in persuading the opposition party to agree to
talks, analysts say.

Diplomats from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) were also involved.

The
MDC has set out several conditions to be met before starting
substantive talks with Mr Mugabe, including the complete cessation of
violence and the release of all political prisoners.

It wants some kind of "transitional authority" to organise new, internationally-monitored elections.

The
MDC says at least 120 of its supporters have been killed, about 5,000
abducted and 200,000 forced from their homes since the first round of
the elections, in a campaign of violence by pro-Mugabe militias and the
army.

Cabinet ministers and military officials have denied the charges.

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