February 24, 2004

MDC rejects conditional talks

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) head of delegation to talks with the ruling Zanu PF, Welshman Ncube, said that his party would not accept President Robert Mugabe's preconditions for dialogue. In a strong reaction to Mugabe's renewed demand that the MDC must first cut ties with its Western "allies" before talks, Ncube, also MDC secretary-general, explained that the opposition rejected that precondition. "We are very clear and we have been clear for the past two years that we are not going to accept any conditions to dialogue with Zanu PF," Ncube said. "The statement that we have to cut ties with Western countries is unfortunately and tragically delusional. The MDC is and has always been a Zimbabwean formation and everybody knows that."

In the meantime, President Robert Mugabe was celebrating his 80th birthday in his home village with thousands of guests. In an interview he said that he would still be active in politics. "In five years, [I will be] here still boxing, writing quite a lot, reading quite a lot and still in politics." Furthermore, he critically remark upon "the majority" of his fellow African Presidents by criticising that they had succumbed to Western influence and turned against African causes. He emphasizes that a few militant leaders reminiscent of former staunch nationalists remained, "but the majority have gone the Western way". "Western philosophy is what is guiding them. They are oriented towards the West, not oriented towards Africa, towards their own people, not nationalistic in the true sense of the word. They are listening to the enemy, they are being dictated to by the enemy and it's a pity."

Meanwhile, the treason trial of Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai drew to a close today, nearly 13 months after it began setting out bizarre claims of subterfuge and intrigue in the troubled southern African country. Tsvangirai could face the death penalty, if convicted of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. High Court Judge Paddington Garwe is expected to take at least six months to issue a ruling, defence lawyers said. (Zimbabwe Independent, Harare / The Pretoria News, South Africa)

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