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Daily Archives: September 11, 2008

Zimbabwe power sharing talks resume amid hopes of a deal

by Fanuel Jongwe*

Zimbabwe's power-sharing talks resumed yesterday amid signs that a deal to end the country's political crisis could be reached by this week between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition.
Mugabe, opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Athur Mutambara of a smaller MDC splinter group met again yesterday in Harare for negotiations mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki.
"I am optimistic, we are not born to be pessimistic, are we?" Mugabe said as he arrived at the venue.
When asked if the outstanding differences would be ironed, the 84-year old said "I hope so."
Meanwhile an MDC source was more cautious, saying there was "guarded optimism" in their camp.
"We are hoping this process will come to a fruitful conclusion this week," the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The stalled power-sharing talks involving Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai's MDC and Mutambara's splinter faction resumed on Monday after being adjourned for more than two weeks.
The talks had been deadlocked on the allocation of executive power between Mugabe and Tsvangirai after controversial elections earlier this year.
Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, but his party was trounced for the first time in legislative elections in March.
The veteran leader agreed to power-sharing talks after winning a June 27 run-off vote unopposed amid condemnation from the international community. Tsvangirai was ahead of Mugabe in the presidential first round but short of absolute majority.
The talks were deadlocked on July 21 after Tsvangarai refused to sign a deal tabled by Mbeki, who then adjourned the negotiations to allow Tsvangirai time to reflect.
On Tuesday an MDC source said that Tsvangirai had held separate "positive" talks in the morning with Mbeki.
The Star newspaper, a mass-circulation Johannesburg daily, yesterday said the parties were seeking a compromise on the allocation of powers between the president and the prime minister, citing a source close to the negotiations.
According to the source, Mugabe was maintaining that he should lead the cabinet, while Tsvangirai remained deputy.
The sources said that Mugabe was now ready to cede more day-to-day control of cabinet issues to Tsvangirai.
On the other hand Tsvangirai was said to be more open to a proposal that gives him more powers but not absolute control of the cabinet.
The paper also wrote that Mutambara wanted to be named deputy prime minister while his rival, which Tsvangirai opposes.
"Apart from the issue of who will head the new government, the parties also discussed the structures that would have to be introduced and agreed that the issue of how many portfolios would go to each party," Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper the Herald said.
Takavafira Zhou, a political scientist at Masvingo State University, voiced scepticism.
"Until I see the deal working I will maintain the position that I have always held that ZANU-PF and the MDC are like water and oil. They can never mix," said Zhou.
"The MDC should be wary of a deal because history has shown that it's impossible to negotiate with ZANU-PF and gain something."


South Africa’s ANC chief back in court Friday on graft charges

A South African court will rule tomorrow as to whether the corruption case of ANC chief Jacob Zuma, whose vocal supporters vowed earlier this year to spill blood for him, should be thrown out of court.
Zuma's legal team asked the court to declare his pending prosecution illegal, arguing that authorities did not follow constitutional rules when recharging him in the long-running investigation.
The charismatic leader is expected to become South Africa's president in next year's general elections after ousting President Thabo Mbeki – who fired him as deputy president in 2005 – as leader of African National Congress.
Zuma faces 16 charges ranging from money-laundering to racketeering. But even if the court turns down his lawyer's request to dismiss the charges, the case could still face further delays.
If the court does not rule their way, his legal team can still appeal and also apply for a permanent stay of prosecution.
Analysts say that there is little chance that the case will reach trial before next year's elections.
Law professor Mike Cowling, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said a ruling on a permanent stay would not be likely before April – when South Africa's elections have traditionally taken place. A separate appeal could take up to two years, he added.
"At the moment, Zuma's team is creating a perception that what they want to do is delay the proceedings," Cowling said.
He rejected the argument of Zuma's supporters that he was the victim of a conspiracy and that the prosecution had infringed his constitutional rights.
"You can't say that he's been wrongly prosecuted," said Cowling.
"You might say it's selective and there are certain things that smell of conspiracy but the bottom line is that he's being prosecuted on the basis of very solid facts," he explained.
This did not mean Zuma was guilty, he added: only that he did have a legal case to answer.
Under current law, the politician would not be able to serve as president if sentenced to a jail term of more than 12 months.
To stay in power under such circumstances would require a constitutional reform, law expert David Unterhalter said.
A more likely scenario was a possible plea bargain with the prosecution before being sentenced if the trial went ahead, Unterhalter said.
This would mean that the prosecution would have to agree to Zuma pleading to a lesser offence. There is no sign of that happening at this stage.
But if the trial were to go ahead and if Zuma became president, there would be pressure on the prosecution to consider a plea bargain if the trial went ahead, Unterhalter added.
With the hefty muscle of South Africa's trade unions and youth leagues behind him, Zuma took power of the ANC last December.
He was charged again on corruption charges days after toppling Mbeki who was seeking a third term as party leader.
He was sacked in 2005 after his former financial advisor was handed a 15-year prison sentence for paying him bribes.
Zuma has been investigated since 2001 for corruption, the main charge that he received bribes for protecting French arms company Thint in an investigation into a controversial arms deal.
His legal team had been about to launch a stay of prosecution in 2006, when an original corruption case against him was struck off the roll.
Thousands of Zuma's supporters from the ANC and its political allies are expected to demonstrate tomorrow, outside the Pietermaritzburg high court, in the politician's home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Known locally by his Zulu clan name of Msholozi, the former Robben Island political prisoner is well known for his trademark song "Umshini wami" (bring me my machine gun).
Zuma has been involved in several legal battles, including a dramatic rape acquittal in 2006 after a trial in which he admitted sleeping with a HIV-positive family friend and showering after sex to prevent infection.
Earlier this year, leaders of the ANC youth league and the powerful labour federation COSATU caused an outcry after pledging to "kill for Zuma".