Zimbabwe opposition warns against convening parliament before deal

August 18th, 2008 - 2:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Aug 18 (DPA) Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it was committed to reaching an agreement with President Robert Mugabe on the formation of a government of national unity, but warned him against convening parliament before a deal comes through. “Failure is not an option in this dialogue,” MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti told a press conference at the close of a two-day Southern African Development Community (SADC)summit in Johannesburg.

Biti said he was confident the dialogue would be concluded “very soon” but, in an apparent reference to Mugabe, added that one of the parties to the talks had “no business negotiating unless they are prepared to compromise.”

Biti also warned Mugabe against convening parliament, a move the MDC opposed.

A last-minute meeting of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security said: “While negotiations (on a government of national unity) are continuing, it may be necessary to convene parliament to give effect to the will of the people as expressed in the parliamentary elections held on 29 March 2008.”

Biti responded: “We hope that no one would do anything to breach the memorandum of understanding on the talks.”

The July 21 memorandum, which set down rules for the tripartite talks, orders that the parties not convene parliament or form a new government “save by consensus.”

An senior MDC official said the party viewed the SADC statement as an attempt to pressure it into agreeing to a deal, but vowed it would not work.

“We don’t have consensus to reconvene parliament. How do you reconvene parliament with an illegitimate government?” the official said.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has been calling for parliament to be reconvened since opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai backed away from a power-sharing agreement earlier this week that would have seen Mugabe retain some executive powers.

Tsvangirai’s MDC faction took more votes than Zanu-PF in the March elections but Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a splinter faction of the MDC that holds the balance of power between the two groups in parliament and is a party to the talks, has said he would consider working with either.

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