Zimbabwe opposition says it’s open to unity talks

June 6th, 2008 - 6:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Cape Town, June 6 (DPA) As political violence mounts in Zimbabwe with just three weeks to a presidential run-off election, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Friday reissued calls for dialogue with President Robert Mugabe on a government of national unity. “It is in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people to talk. We’re ready to dialogue,” MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti told a debate on Zimbabwe at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.

If the two sides had not managed to hold talks by the June 27 run-off vote “we will be unable to talk after,” Biti warned, predicting “June 27 will not be different from March 29.”

But the MDC was sticking by its insistence that its leader Morgan Tsvangirai head any “government of national healing.”

The MDC claims Tsvangirai was the outright winner of the first round of voting in the presidential elections on March 29.

The official count showed the 56-year-old former trade unionist falling short of the 50-percent plus tally needed for a direct win, thrusting him into a run-off against Mugabe on June 27.

Zimbabwe’s neighbours, including South Africa, have been pushing the idea of a unity government but there is disagreement over who should lead it.

State media in Zimbabwe have said the role should fall to Mugabe.

Biti said that a powersharing deal should allow Mugabe “to play golf” and guarantee the security of his assets, stressing the MDC was not interested in revenge.

He also referred to people “in the president’s courtyard” who were fearful about the “blood on their hands,” without saying what their fate under an MDC-led unity government would be.

Simba Makoni, Mugabe’s former finance minister, who also ran for president in March but came in a distant third, said the situation in Zimbabwe was a lot graver than on March 29.

Youth militia loyal to Mugabe have gone on the rampage since the elections, beating and killing opposition supporters - over 60, by the MDC’s count.

In further evidence of an attempt by the state to hammer the opposition Tsvangirai was detained by police on Wednesday for several hours while campaiging and MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara was arrested last week over an article he wrote that criticized government.

By contrast, the run-up to the March election was relatively peaceful.

“This is not a leadership, that is servicing pedople, but a leadership, that attacks people,” Makoni said. There was no semblance of a free and fair election, said Makoni, who has been tipped as a possible kingmaker in any powersharing deal because he has cross-party appeal.

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