By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Pressure mounts on Zimbabwe opposition leader
ZIMBABWE TALKSJOH10 5404813
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, second right, arrives for ongoing talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe. Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008. The talks have extended to a third day to negotiate a power-sharing deal. - photo by Associated Press
    HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader faced mounting pressure Wednesday to agree to a power-sharing government with autocratic President Robert Mugabe, but insisted that this must reflect ‘‘the will of the people.’’
    ‘‘We need a government that transfers power to the elected representatives of the people to carry out the people’s mandate for change,’’ said Movement for Democratic Change president Morgan Tsvangirai.
    Tsvangirai left South African-mediated talks with Mugabe and the leader of a smaller opposition faction late Tuesday, prompting speculation that he had walked out. But in his statement Wednesday, he said negotiations would continue.
    South African President Thabo Mbeki said the adjournment was meant to give Tsvangirai ‘‘more time to reflect.’’ He told journalists in Angola — where he made a brief visit after Zimbabwe — that the negotiations were on the right track.
    Tsvangirai said that Mugabe must make a sign of good faith and end his ban on international humanitarian aid agencies imposed earlier this year, ostensibly because they were a tool of unfriendly Western governments.
    ‘‘Our people continue to face a profound humanitarian crisis. This destructive policy of banning humanitarian assistance can be reversed with one letter,’’ Tsvangirai said, demanding that Mbeki pressure Mugabe to agree to this at a summit of regional leaders this weekend.
    Mugabe’s land reform policies have ruined the country’s once-thriving agricultural sector, and the country’s economy has collapsed.
    ‘‘Tragically, Zimbabwe has become one of the worst man-made humanitarian disasters of a new and hopeful century,’’ Tsvangirai said, commenting that at least 2 million Zimbabweans have fled abroad and an estimated half million died of starvation, malnutrition and preventable disease.
    ‘‘Because of the failed policies of ZANU PF, 5 million Zimbabweans now face starvation and famine. We cannot allow this to happen,’’ he said.
    Tsvangirai won the first round of presidential elections in March, though not by an outright majority. He boycotted the runoff in June because of massive violence and intimidation blamed on Mugabe loyalists.
    Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, won the one-man runoff which was denounced as a sham even by normally sympathetic African countries.
    The state run Herald newspaper signaled Wednesday that Mugabe would go ahead and form a government, with or without Tsvangirai. It said that parliament would soon sit.
    Mbeki earlier told a news conference in Harare that there was one key sticking point, which he did not identify. He said that Mugabe and third negotiator Arthur Mutambara, leader of a smaller opposition faction, were in agreement on this, leaving Tsvangirai as the sole holdout.
    The most contentious issue has been the amount of control 84-year-old Mugabe is prepared to cede. Mugabe reportedly wants to keep his authority as president, while Tsvangirai reportedly wants executive powers as prime minister, including the right to chair Cabinet meetings.
    In his statement, Tsvangirai said a solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis must reflect the outcome of the March presidential vote, in other words, Tsvangirai’s victory over Mugabe.
    ‘‘We knew negotiations would be difficult, but a resolution that represents anything other than the will of the Zimbabwean people would be a disaster for our country,’’ he said.
    Tsvangirai’s faction has 100 seats in Parliament, and the ruling ZANU-PF 99. Mutambara, whose faction holds 10, agreed to form a parliamentary alliance with Tsvangirai after the March elections. If the power-sharing talks collapsed and Mutambara switched allegiances, it would give the majority to Mugabe’s party.
    Mutambara insisted that he had not cut a separate deal with Mugabe to sideline Tsvangirai, saying ‘‘there is no way you can extract a bilateral agreement from a tripartite process.’’
    Mutambara appealed to Tsvangirai to think of the national interest.
    ‘‘We are at a crossroads in our country,’’ Mutambara told a news conference. ‘‘The leaders of our political parties must rise up to the challenge to provide leadership.’’
    The power-sharing talks started July 21.
    Mbeki had hoped to present the national unity government to the weekend regional summit.
    Mugabe and ZANU-PF have ruled Zimbabwe since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.