July 31, 2008

SAfrica’s Mbeki Says Zimbabwe’s Crisis Talks to Resume 3 August

Text of report by South African newspaper Business Day website on 31 July

[Report by Dumisani Muleya: "Zimbabwe talks 'to resume at weekend'"]

President Thabo Mbeki met Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders yesterday in a bid to secure a crucial power- sharing agreement which is expected to be finalized next week.

Mbeki secured a commitment that negotiations would resume in South Africa this weekend, enhancing prospects for a deal that could lead to the recovery of Zimbabwe's shattered economy and mark the beginning of the end of Mugabe's 28-year rule.

Mbeki said after an hour-long meeting with Mugabe that the talks were proceeding well. "It is work in progress. The negotiators are working hard and have committed themselves to the time frame. They will resume on Sunday [3 August]," Mbeki said.

Earlier Mugabe said his regime was anxious for a solution and expressed "full commitment" to dialogue. "We would like to see the speedy conclusion of the talks, (and) a successful outcome," Mugabe said.

On Tuesday, Mbeki met main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Pretoria to keep the talks on track after hurdles arose over government positions and powers.

Senior ZANU (PF) and MDC negotiators told Business Day last night that there are "no disagreements, but consultations".

"Mbeki gave a report to Mugabe and (Arthur) Mutambara separately on what has been done so far and the plan on how to finalize outstanding matters. We are currently drafting the final agreement - its principles - and negotiators need to consult their leaders," one senior negotiator said.

Another negotiator said claims of a deadlock were untrue and reports of Tsvangirai being offered the position of vice-president and rejecting it were incorrect. "There are proposals on the table and everyone is agreed on the way forward."

Informed sources said Tsvangirai was eyeing a post of prime minister , although there could be a surprise agreement. "Don't rule out anything. Why don't you think Tsvangirai can become president? It's possible, you will be surprised," a negotiator said.

Meanwhile, Eskom said yesterday it had stopped supplying Zimbabwe with electricity as the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority had stopped making new orders. Since 2005 Eskom's supply had been on a prepaid basis, and the Zimbabwe authority stopped placing orders from the latter part of last year, a spokesman said.

Originally published by Business Day website, Johannesburg, in English 31 Jul 08.

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