Officials from Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have met in Pretoria, confirmed South Africa. “They started talking this morning”, said Mukoni Ratshitanga, a spokesman for Thabo Mbeki, the South African president and Zimbabwe mediator, on Thursday.
But the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai (photo, from telegraph.co.uk), said the meeting has been attended by officials from his party so they can present conditions that would need to be, before negociations could begin.
“Over the past 10 days, I and my party have stated categorically that there are no negotiations between ourselves and Zanu-PF currently taking place … This position has not changed”, he said in a statement.
A few days before the June 27 poll took place, Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of it, and Zimbabwe’s leader for 28 years, Robert Mugabe, claimed victory.
‘Return his passport’
Though there was little information about what was discussed and who took part, Al Jazeera’s Kalay Maistry, reporting from Johannesburg, said that the MDC’s number two could have left Zimbabwe, where he has been charged with treason, to go to the talks.
“We did see yesterday from Zimbabwe that the MDC’s Tendai Biti has asked a court to return his passport so he could attend talks in South Africa – but there is still no indication that such high level of members of the various parties are meeting.”
Sources said that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF will be represented by Patrick Chinamasa (photo, from bbc.co.uk), the justice minister, and Nicholas Goche, the labour minister.
Representatives of the breakaway opposition faction of Arthur Mutambara, who met Mugabe last Saturday, also reportedly attended the talks.
Meeting in Japan this week, G8 leaders called for a special envoy to assist in mediation efforts, and they also rejected the legitimacy of Mugabe’s government and threatened further sanctions against his regime.
The US made a draft resolution calling for a freeze on assets and a travel ban for Mugabe and 13 close associates, as well as an arms embargo.
It would also demand that the Harare government “begin without delay a substantive dialogue between the parties with the aim of arriving at a peaceful solution that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people as expressed by the March 29 [first-round presidential] elections”.
Though he finished ahead of Mr Mugabe in that election, Morgan Tsvangirai did not secure enough votes to avoid the run-off.
The push for futher sanctions has been rejected by several African governments, including South Africa. They say it will only worsen the situation.
But on Thursday, Liberia said that sanctions would send Robert Mugabe a “strong message”.
“I think it [sanctions] is fine to bring about satisfactory resolution”, said Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the president.
Her statement came as she arrived in South Africa to deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture as part of events to mark the former South African president’s 90th birthday.
Ms Johnson-Sirleaf also expressed support for moves to appoint a special envoy to assist in Zimbabwe mediation efforts.