Bishop issues warning as Zimbabwe power-sharing talks resume

By staff writers
July 23, 2008

The Anglican Bishop of Harare, the Rt Rev Sebastian Bakare, has warned leaders of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to be wary of President Robert Mugabe intentions following the signing of an agreement to open power-sharing talks.

The southern African nation is still deeply divided following the disputed elections, only won by Mugabe when his chief opponent Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew as a result of death threats and intimidation.

The ruling ZANU-PF party and the two formations of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are expected to begin talks on Thursday in Pretoria.

This is later than expected, due to last-minute ruling party internal consultations, diplomatic sources said today.

MDC activists have been exasperated at what some described as the "media circus" of handshakes and rhetoric surrounding preliminaries to the talks.

They fear that Mugabe is using this to strengthen his own standing in a country where censorship remains strong.

The note of concern was echoed by Bishop Bakare, speaking from the worldwide Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops meeting in Kent. He spoke of the torment suffered by many in the churches under Mugabe, but also recognised the move towards talks rather than conflict as "a sign of hope".

His predecessor was seen as a Mugabe stooge and finally moved on after repeated protests to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, mediator for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), had pushed for the Zimbabwean talks to get going on Tuesday 22 July 2008, following the signing on Monday of a memorandum of understanding setting the framework for the talks.

But analysts and reporters say that ZANU-PF mediators Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, respectively the ministers of justice and labour under President Robert Mugabe, stalled by consulting further with the ruling party leadership. After this they headed for Pretoria on Wednesday 23rd.

Chinamasa then confirmed to the state media that the talks will resume on Thursday 24 July.

Negotiators for Morgan Tsvangirai used the the time to reconfigure their team. Secretary General Tendai Biti and Deputy Treasurer Elton Mangoma will represent the Tsvangirai formation at the table.

MDC Women's Assembly chairperson Theresa Makone and chair Lovemore Moyo will also be on hand as observers.

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