Mugabe, Tsvangirai deal in tatters

October 18, 2008 12:00 am

, HARARE, October 18 – Zimbabwe’s power-sharing talks hinge on control of the home affairs ministry, state media said Saturday, as President Robert Mugabe and his rival asked neighbouring nations to help break their impasse.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said late Friday that four days of intense negotiations had failed to resolve their feud over the most powerful cabinet posts.

Both sides asked the Southern African Development Community to intervene in the talks, which have been mediated by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki said he would travel with the Zimbabwean leaders to Swaziland on Monday, where a three-member SADC security body will try to find a solution.

Mbeki brokered the original pact signed one month ago, which calls for 84-year-old Mugabe remaining as president while Tsvangirai takes the new post of prime minister.

Tsvangirai threatened to pull out of the deal after Mugabe last week unilaterally awarded the most important ministries to his party, leaving him firmly in charge of the military and police.

Patrick Chinamasa, the lead negotiator for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, said in state media Saturday that the talks hinge on control of the home affairs ministry, which oversees the police force that stands accused of widespread human rights abuses.

He told the Herald newspaper that ZANU-PF had agreed to give Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) control of the finance ministry, a critical portfolio in a country grappling with the world’s highest rate of inflation, at 231 million percent.

"One can say that the discussions, however, largely centred on the issue of Home Affairs. ZANU-PF was arguing that it should get the ministry while (Tsvangirai) was also arguing that they should get the ministry," Chinamasa said.

Arthur Mutambara, leader of an MDC splinter group, had proposed rotating the home affairs ministry between the parties every six months, but Chinamasa said his party had rejected the idea as impractical.

Tsvangirai has argued that his party needs oversight of at least some security agencies to reassure his supporters who were the target of deadly political violence during election campaigning earlier in the year.

"We are concerned there is an attempt to reduce the MDC to a meaningless position in the coalition government," he said after the talks ended late Friday.

The former union leader defeated Mugabe in a first round presidential vote in March, when the MDC also forced the ZANU-PF into the minority in parliament for the first time.

But Tsvangirai failed to win enough votes to declare outright victory and then pulled out of the run-off in June, accusing the regime of coordinating a brutal campaign of political violence that left more than 100 of his supporters dead.

The uncontested runoff election drew international condemnation, and the United States and the European Union have threatened to toughen their sanctions on the regime if the unity accord falls apart.

The political stalemate has dimmed hope for rescuing Zimbabwe from its stunning collapse from a model economy to a ruin of hunger and poverty.

Once one of Africa’s most prosperous nations, Zimbabwe now suffers critical food shortages, with nearly half its people needing UN aid and 80 percent of the population living in poverty.



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