ZANU PF and the MDC are reportedly engaged in secret talks to form a government of national unity (GNU) and forgo the June 27 presidential election run-off after the two parties agreed that the poll will not resolve the social, political and economic crisis in the country.
The run-off pits President Robert Mugabe against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the first round of the presidential election on March 29, but was short of the mandatory 50% plus votes needed to assume power.
The reports of talks between the MDC and Zanu PF came amid growing local, regional and international pressure on the two parties to reach a negotiated settlement to the crisis.
Sources told The Zimbabwe Independent this week that Mugabe and Tsvangirai were eager for a negotiated settlement arguing that the run-off could not be a mechanism for conflict resolution.
The sources said the unity government was necessary to end the political impasse and facilitate a smooth legislative process given that Zimbabwe now has a hung parliament.
The idea of a GNU, the sources said, is backed by Sadc, South African President Thabo Mbeki and the African National Congress (ANC)’s leadership headed by Jacob Zuma.
“The protagonists are agreed on the need for a government of national unity,” one of the sources said. “The two parties realise that the run-off will not resolve the crisis, hence the talks for a negotiated settlement.”
The sources said Mugabe had reached out to Tsvangirai with the idea of a GNU and high level talks were expected to commence soon.
Former Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa yesterday told the Independent that Tsvangirai told him that Mugabe had invited the opposition leader back to Harare to begin power-sharing talks.
Dabengwa – who met Tsvangirai in South Africa at the weekend – described himself as “one of the facilitators of the GNU”. He however refused to reveal what was discussed in the meeting.
The former Home Affairs minister has strong links with the new leadership of the ANC, whose president Zuma is reportedly pushing hard for a GNU to end Zimbabwe’s crisis.
The international media quoted Dabengwa at the weekend saying Tsvangirai and Mugabe wanted to meet and pave the way for a political settlement that would avoid the run-off.
“[Tsvangirai] said he had been approached by Zanu PF and they were prepared to forgo a runoff in favour of establishing a government of national unity,” Dabengwa was quoted as saying.
“I said: ‘Please don’t hesitate. Take it up, and let’s get on with the negotiation’.”
MDC secretary-general, Tendai Biti, on Sunday told journalists in Nairobi, Kenya, that the run-off would not resolve the crisis in the country, adding that there was still room for negotiation to come up with a “unity government of national healing”.
“The basic problem is that we have an old man, a geriatric, who is not prepared to give up power and that situation isn’t going to change on June 27,” Biti said.
He said a run-off was “merely extending and exacerbating the crisis” and legitimising “Mugabe’s constitutional coup”.
The answer, Biti argued, should have been for African leaders to persuade Mugabe to negotiate a GNU, but instead the leaders of neighbouring countries had failed to confront him.
South African-based think tank, Solidarity Peace Trust (SPT), on Wednesday said Mbeki must urgently meet Zanu PF and the MDC and ask them to consider the formation of a GNU or a transitional one.
The SPT director of research, Brian Raftopoulos, said considering the post-election violence in Zimbabwe, a political solution was more “important and appropriate” than the run-off.
“This will be another wasted election,” he said during the launch in Johannesburg of a report titled Punishing Dissent, Silencing Citizens: The Zimbabwe Elections 2008. “Zanu-PF will not give in if it loses the election. At this moment election is secondary what is important now is a political solution that will come through a transitional government.”
The report said the run-off was neither practical nor desirable in an environment of state-sponsored violence.
“The Sadc mediator (Mbeki) should, therefore, take urgent steps to bring the major parties together into a renewed mediation process to discussions around the creation of a transitional government composed of representatives of the MDC and Zanu-PF to map out conditions for political stabilisation, humanitarian assistance and interim measures to help stabilise the economy,” reads the report. “Such a transitional authority should then map out the process for the creation of a new constitution, and the conditions necessary for such a constitution to come into force.”
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) also said a negotiated settlement leading to a transitional government led by Tsvangirai might be the lasting solution to the country’s mounting political and economic crisis.
“African leaders, with support from the wider international community, must step in to stop the violence and resolve the deepening political crisis, ideally by facilitating an agreement establishing an MDC-led transitional government that avoids the need for the run-off,” the ICG said. “That broadened mediation, supported by additional international actors, should focus on two immediate objectives, which are not mutually exclusive, as the end objective of each should be some form of government of national unity, under MDC leadership.”
Efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF information committee chairperson Patrick Chinamasa were in vain yesterday, as he was not answering his mobile phone. However, the party recently ruled out a GNU with the MDC, saying they were puppets of the West.
Nelson Chamisa, the MDC spokesperson, yesterday could neither confirm nor deny that there were secretive talks between his party and Zanu PF.
“We have no resolution on that (GNU),” Chamisa said. “Our position is that whoever wins the run-off should come up with a government of national healing that is inclusive of all political players.”
By Constantine Chimakure