Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday called for fresh elections, supervised by international observers, if deadlocked power-sharing talks do not reach a breakthrough.
With Thabo Mbeki expected in Harare later this week in an attempt to revive the negotiations, Tsvangirai told thousands of supporters to celebrate his party’s nine years […] that he would only sign a deal that gives him “sufficient” power.
“If there are continued problems over the presidency, then we go for national elections supervised by the international community,” he announced to about 6 000 supporters who attended the MDC rally that was reluctantly sanctioned by police.
Talks between Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai, whose MDC holds a parliamentary majority, deadlocked in mid-August over Mugabe’s desire to retain control of the security forces, according to the opposition.
The talks are being brokered by Mbeki on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a 15-nation bloc. An expected Mbeki trip to Harare comes after Mugabe threatened to form a cabinet if Tsvangirai delayed signing a document to pave the way for a power-sharing deal.
“Mugabe should be head of state and I head of government,” Tsvangirai added. He said if Mugabe does not accept that, ” let it be. We have time on our hands and we have the people on our side. …we would rather have no deal than a bad deal.”
MDC supporters who gathered at Sunday’s rally openly wore MDC T-shirts emblazoned with Tsvangirai’s face. Such scenes were rare in the run-up to Zimbabwe’s June presidential run-off, when authorities barred opposition rallies and detained Tsvangirai several times as he sought to campaign.
Hundreds of stick-wielding youths had gathered at the venue before moving on to the nearby headquarters of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
A carnival atmosphere prevailed with supporters singing and dancing. Some carried banners with messages such as “Dialogue must respect the people’s will”, “Free our MPs”, “Nine years fighting for better healthcare, food, jobs and education,” and “We are the change you can trust”.
Speaking earlier at the same rally, MDC’s secretary general who is facing treason charges that carrying the death sentence, Tendai Biti, recalled that the talks had stalled over powers invested in the president by the current constitution.
“The president created in this constitution is a monarch, an imperial president. That’s the sticking point,” he said. “It’s the issue of the powers of the president as enshrined in this constitution that is making these talks not to move forward.”
A protracted power struggle between iron-fisted Mugabe and the opposition – which shows few signs of being resolved after the president’s widely condemned one-man re-election in June – has added to the country’s woes.