African leaders to meet in Harare

October 27, 2008 12:00 am

, HARARE, OCTOBER 27 – Leaders of a Southern African bloc will meet Monday in Zimbabwe to try and salvage the country’s agreement to form a unity government which has been deadlocked over the allocation of key ministries.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika summit comes after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted the last meeting Monday in Swaziland, in protest at receiving his travel documents at the last minute.

"The issue is not just about home affairs, there are about ten ministries which need to be clarified, we will negotiate through the facilitator on Monday," said Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

"We have long rejected co-sharing, once we start to share it would be messy and chaotic," said Chamisa.

Talks to form a power-sharing cabinet had been stalled since the signing of a landmark September 15 unity deal brokered by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

More than a month later and despite several meetings, President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara who leads an MDC faction have failed to reach an agreement on allocating key ministries including defence, home affairs, finance and local government.

Earlier in September, the three rivals agreed to call the mediator to break the impasse, but after four days of marathon meetings Mugabe and Tsvangirai locked horns over the ministries of home affairs and finance, prompting Mbeki to refer the matter to SADC.

Under the deal, the 84-year-old Mugabe retained his position as president while Tsvangirai assumed the role of prime minister.

The deal left unresolved the formation of a cabinet, except to declare how many posts each party would receive, and that ambiguity threatens to sink the entire deal.

The ZANU-PF was allotted 15 portfolios, Tsvangirai’s MDC 13 and three for the smaller MDC faction led by Mutambara.

Mbeki is expected to brief the summit which is currently chaired by Swaziland on developments of the talks.

Swaziland king Mswati III, who last week dispatched a jet to fetch Tsvangirai from Zimbabwe after he failed to arrive for the talks, will be represented by his Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.

At least three key leaders from the 15-nation bloc are set to attend the summit.

Newly appointed South African President Kgalema Motlanthe and Foreign Minister Nkosazana Zuma will be part of the meeting.

"The meeting takes place against the background of ongoing efforts by SADC to help the people of Zimbabwe in their endeavour to find a lasting solution to their political and economic challenges," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

After initially threatening to skip this Monday’s summit as well, Tsvangirai has agreed to attend, but warned that his party will not accept a bad deal for the sake of furthering Mbeki’s so-called "quiet diplomacy."

"We have a high respect for SADC and regional leaders," Tsvangirai told a rally Saturday. But he warned: "Quiet diplomacy has its limits."

Analysts said that Tsvangirai has little choice but to push ahead with the deal, if the MDC hopes to have any chance of reforming the government or salvaging the economy, which is beset by the world’s highest inflation rate, believed to be at least 231 million percent.

"By attending the summit, this is a realisation by the MDC that despite all the obstacles being put in place by ZANU-PF hardliners, it is important to change things from within," said political analyst Bornwell Chakaodza, a respected former newspaper editor.


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