Saturday, July 26, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: EU Softens Stance; Pact Shames West; Violence Claims Unsubstantiated

MoU softens EU stance on Zim

Herald Reporter-AFP.

BORDEAUX--THE ongoing talks between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations have softened the European Union’s stance on Zimbabwe and has now thrown its weight behind President Thabo Mbeki’s mediation.

The EU solidly backed Pretoria’s mediating role in Zimbabwe as the only way of ending the country’s economic and political problems at the end of the landmark EU-South Africa summit yesterday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy — whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU — showered fulsome praise on President on his "bold and courageous" intervention.

"We wholeheartedly support the courageous mediation by President Mbeki and back the idea to give him more time," Sarkozy said at a joint news conference at the end of the first EU-South Africa summit, held in the picturesque French city of Bordeaux.

"Mbeki’s mediation must be supported," he said, adding: "There is no other way possible now and everyone in Europe agrees on this."

The EU on Tuesday widened sanctions against Zimbabwe despite a deal brokered by Mbeki between President Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara on talks for a future government.

Brussels is hostile to President Mugabe while President Mbeki, on the other hand, is opposed to any attempt to arm-twist the Zimbabwean leader and to bow to any form of Western pressure.

Yesterday President Mbeki sought to emphasise that the positions on Zimbabwe were narrowing.

"All of us agreed that it is important that Zimbabwean political parties should move forward to reach agreement . . . on the formation of an inclusive government and a common programme to take Zimbabwe forward.

"I think everybody in the world wants this to happen as a matter of urgency," he said. "I really sincerely appreciate the support expressed by President Sarkozy."

President Mbeki sidestepped a question on whether he was seeking a dignified exit for President Mugabe, whose status as an African liberation hero is still largely undimmed on the continent.

"They (the Zimbabweans) will have to take the decision about who retires when. It’s not something that comes from the mediation," he said.

South Africa defended its approach on the Zimbabwean issue.

"Our view is that there has been a major step forward in the process of dialogue in Zimbabwe thanks to the tireless and behind-the-scenes efforts of President Mbeki," South African Foreign Ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told AFP.

"We want all those parties who have a genuine desire for a resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe to give the current peace process a strong boost," Mamoepa added.

Mamoepa yesterday slammed Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga for speaking out on the Zimbabwean situation and insisting that President Mugabe release all political prisoners.

"We are not aware of the accreditation of Prime Minister Odinga as a mediator on the Zimbabwean question," Mamoepa said.

"Odinga is demanding that President Mugabe release all political prisoners and to host teleconferences, but in what capacity?" he added.

As the talks progress analysts and ordinary Zimbabweans have been predicting how the all- inclusive government would look like and how everybody considered key will be accommodated.

Some are suggesting that President Mugabe should appoint more than five non-constituency senators to accommodate those who were defeated in the March 29 elections.

In Zimbabwe, for one to be Government minister they have to be either an MP or senator.

Ironically, it was the opposition which proposed that the number of non-constituency MPs appointed by the President be reduced from 12 to five.

The opposition is now believed to be pushing for the President to appoint more than five senators.

This requires a constitutional amendment and Parliament will have to be called to sit and pass the necessary amendments before the extra senators can be appointed.

Analysts say this should not be a problem if the negotiating parties agree to this route since the two largest parties between them can easily muster the necessary majority. — Herald Reporter-AFP.

Pact shames West: Sata

Herald Reporter

ZAMBIAN opposition leader Mr Michael Sata says the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations has "shamed the West".

The West had for a long time been accusing the Sadc-appointed Zimbabwe mediator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, of failing to bring Zanu-PF and the MDC formations to the negotiating table, Mr Sata, leader of the Patriotic Front, said.

The Post of Zambia, quoted Mr Sata, whose stance against the West’s interference in African countries internal affairs is well known, expressing his confidence that the MoU and the ongoing talks would yield positive results.

"When I said the West should stop demonising (President) Mugabe, the West and its puppets criticised me.

"They called me all sorts of names. But what I meant was that the only way to solve the political crisis in Zimbabwe is by using a similar political formula as I did with (Zambian President) Levy (Mwanawasa).

"Just the other day, I was vindicated when the political leaders agreed to end the political crisis by signing the MoU. Indeed, I’ve been vindicated," he said.

Mr Sata reiterated his position that the West should leave Africa alone to handle its problems.

Makumbe fails to substantiate violence claims

Crime Reporter

TRANSPARENCY International chairman and University of Zimbabwe lecturer John Makumbe has failed to substantiate his claims of post-June 27 presidential run-off election violence in some parts of Zimbabwe admitting that he was relying on reports from a foreign pirate radio station and a foreign newspaper.

Makumbe’s claims that some people had taken refuge in mountains because of acts of violence made on a live ZBC-TV programme "Zimbabwe Today" were condemned by the Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa that called on Zimbabweans to refrain from provocative statements when political parties are engaged in dialogue to solve the country’s problems.

Following the claims police summoned Makumbe to furnish them with more information to back his allegations but he could not provide a shred of evidence.

Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said they visited Makumbe at his University of Zimbabwe offices to verify the authenticity of his allegations.

"He only referred the officers who quizzed him to a hostile newspaper, The Zimbabwean, and said he had got some of his information from the pirate radio station run by Voice of America," he said.

Police have since dismissed Makumbe’s claims saying they were unfounded and meant to cause alarm and despondency.

Chief Supt Mandipaka said Makumbe had misled the nation into believing that violence was still prevalent yet there were no cases of violence since the elections ended.

"It is very unfortunate that a professor can go on national television to make such allegations without any shred of evidence. Such utterances are, in our view, calculated to cause despondency and are alarming to the country," Chief Supt Mandipaka said adding that every citizen must act responsibly by verifying the facts.

Makumbe confirmed yesterday that police visited him saying he had referred them to Studio 7 and The Zimbabwean.

The Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa yesterday called on political parties, trade unions, the media and civil society to refrain from provocative actions and statements at a time when the country’s political parties are engaged in dialogue aimed at finding lasting solutions to the current challenges.

In a statement yesterday, CPIA executive director Dr Leonard Kapungu applauded President Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara for signing a Memorandum of Understanding that paved the way for talks.

"We hope that the substantive talks now underway will be conducted in a mature and rational manner in the spirit of compromise, with the interests of Zimbabweans at the centre of the discussions," he said.

"We sincerely hope that the hard bargaining and ‘horse trading’ inherent in negotiations will be tempered with selfless pragmatism so as to bring about a lasting solution to the political impasse, economic meltdown and social dislocation besetting the country."

The CPIA said there is need for negotiators to be single-minded and focus on the big national

picture at the expense of self-interests and narrow partisan considerations.

It appealed to the negotiators to ensure that Zimbabweans would buy into the new dispensation to emerge from the talks.

"To this end the document being crafted by the negotiators should have the seal of approval and legitimacy of all Zimbabweans, through a referendum, before it becomes the supreme law of the land."

The CPIA believes that the negotiations should go beyond the short- and long-term solutions in purely constitutional terms.

It said the talks presented a glorious opportunity for the negotiators to bring on board other issues like reconciliation.

"We hope and pray that the negotiators will be able to deliver at the earliest opportunity. At the same time we call upon all political parties, trade unions, civil society, individuals and the media to refrain from provocative actions and making careless statements," the statement said.

Why Zimbabweans should back talks

By Peter Chiridza and Tsitsi Makwande

NEWS headlines in the country over the past week have been dominated by the signing of the talks pact between Zimbabwe’s main political parties.

This event has been hailed and applauded by many because it has managed to rejuvenate the Sadc-endorsed dialogue process that started in South Africa last year and resumed this past week.

To a great extent, the development — coming after the polarisation that characterised the country in the lead-up to the recent elections, demonstrates that dialogue is an existential necessity.

Paulo Freire in a 1972 publication discusses dialogue and writes: "Dialogue is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world.

"Hence, dialogue cannot occur between those who want to name the world and those who do not wish this naming — between those who deny others the right to speak their word and those whose right to speak has been denied them . . . If it is in speaking their word that people, by naming the world, transform it dialogue imposes itself as the way by which they achieve significance as human beings."

He goes on to say: "Dialogue is thus an existential necessity . . . dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person’s ‘depositing’ ideas in another; nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be ‘consumed’ by the discussants.

"Nor yet is it a hostile, polemical argument between those who are committed neither to the naming of the world, nor to the search for truth, but rather to the imposition of their own truth."

Freire postulates that since dialogue is an encounter among women and men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some name on behalf of others.

"It is an act of creation; it must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one person by another.

"The domination implicit in dialogue is that of the world by the dialoguers; it is conquest of the world for the liberation of humankind."

The inevitability of dialogue in any crisis can therefore not be overemphasised.

Already the resumption of dialogue in South Africa has also ushered in a process of national healing, understanding and meaningful compromise.

Harsh polemical arguments along party lines had of late dominated debate across Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces.

Brother had turned against brother, and teacher had turned against student; beerhalls had become places to trade insults. Indeed, failure to subscribe to another’s opinion had automatically inferred the other’s foolishness and inferior intellectual capability.

But happily, this is all becoming a thing of the past as political engagement in the country is becoming more reasonable.

People are becoming increasingly respectful of each other’s points of view as they realise that everyone’s opinion is really as important as anyone else’s is.

Those deemed to be thinking "incorrectly" are now accepted for their difference of opinion.

And surely, as already noted by Freire, harsh polemical argument or, the imposition of one’s own truth, can never be the way forward.

Pleasingly, Zimbabwe’s political leaders have accepted this and have gone back to the negotiating table, a development that should be replicated at all levels of society.

The idea of unity has always brought progress, development and unity of purpose.

Evidently, it is the hope of every progressive Zimbabwean that the talks will bring about the much-desired turnaround in our economy.

Zimbabweans have to realise that the talks are the first step towards our ultimate goal of nation-building but patience is essential.

It is also imperative that we all work together towards a common cause despite the challenges we are currently facing.

The imposition of more sanctions by Western countries, even after the feuding political parties had already signed the Memorandum of Understanding is clear testimony of the resistance we are likely to face in charting our own destiny.

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, even told the world body’s Security Council that, "there are not serious, substantive negotiations underway between the Mugabe regime and the opposition."

He was obviously still smarting after the Security Council rejected a US-authored draft sanctions resolution.

Such unfounded comments make it clear that America and its allies would like to derail talks towards unity in Zimbabwe.

History has proved over and over again that the West has never supported the prospect of unity among African leaders, countries and her peoples.

The tragedy of the first Ghanaian black president, Kwame Nkrumah, who advocated for a unified Africa is testament to the lengths that Westerners can go to sabotage unity among Africans.

Nkrumah in explaining his vision for the continent in his 1961 book, "I Speak of Freedom", insisted: "Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.

"I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind."

Sadly, it was the very same Ghanaians that Nkrumah had worked hard to liberate from the colonial yoke who celebrated his ousting from power and today many from that country lament this fact.

This demonstrates just how deep the effects of colonialism have become ingrained in Africa.

Zimbabweans have to be careful not to fall in the same trap as we, after all, have the benefit of hindsight.

Our goal should be to support our leaders and their different political parties so that these talks can be a success.

Our aim should be to support unity, peace and development in our country, if we truly love our land and countrymen.

The ongoing talks in South Africa carry the hopes and aspirations of the father battling to fend for his family, the mother concerned for her children, the young men and women who are the future of our nation, for a better Zimbabwe.

This is why the signing of the MoU will forever be an event of historical, political, economic and academic significance.

God bless Zimbabwe.

No comments: