September 12, 2008

Zimbabwe Rivals Agree Power-Sharing Deal

By Basildon Peta Southern Africa Correspondent

ZIMBABWE'S LEADERS have clinched a historic power-sharing deal that will end five months of political stalemate between President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who defeated him in the first round of the presidential election.

The South African President, Thabo Mbeki, who has mediated during months of fraught on-and-off negotiations, made the official announcement last night after four days of talks in Harare.

"It's made in Zimbabwe, it's made by Zimbabweans, the rest of the world needs to respect that the people of Zimbabwe have taken a decision about their own country," he said.

Mr Mbeki said the deal would be signed at a formal ceremony in the Zimbabwean capital on Monday morning, to be attended by African leaders. However, he did not give details of the accord, saying this would be done on Monday, and critical questions remained last night.

The mediation had recently stalled over disputes about how to share power between Mr Mugabe, who is to remain as President, and Mr Tsvangirai, who becomes Prime Minister. The leaders are to spend the next few days putting together the "inclusive government".

Mr Mbeki had faced international criticism because of his reluctance to take Mr Mugabe to task during his seemingly futile mediation efforts aimed at putting an end to Zimbabwe's long- running crisis.

"I am absolutely certain that the leadership of Zimbabwe is committed to implementing these agreements ... this is an outcome that comes out of decisions arrived at by the leadership of Zimbabwe," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai was the first to announce the deal between Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and his own Movement for Democratic Change as he left the talks in Harare. However, there was no immediate comment from Mr Mugabe or Zanu-PF.

Mr Mbeki said that "the leaders will work very hard to mobilise support for the people to recover. We hope the world will assist so that this political agreement succeeds."

If accepted by the key donor Western nations, the power-sharing agreement will pave the way for Zimbabwe's reconstruction. The southern African nation's economy has been in freefall since February 2000, when Mr Mugabe, in his desperate bid to cling to power, unleashed his supporters on a campaign to seize white farms.

The campaign effectively destroyed Zimbabwe's agro-based economy and saw inflation spiral to 50 million per cent.

The deal will also bring relief for Mr Mbeki, who was condemned for his softly-softly approach to Mr Mugabe, which many blamed for his failure to get an agreement earlier.

Analysts remained cautious last night after the announcement. "There appears now to be a reluctance to come out from Zanu-PF, which means there have been major concessions from the government side, in my view - not only agreeing an executive prime minister's role for Morgan Tsvangirai, but maybe a sharing of security posts," said Martin Rupiyah, the director of Africa research at Cranfield University.

"I don't think we are out of the woods yet in terms of the Zimbabwe crisis," he added. "There are a number of pieces that still have to fall into place. One is the role of the military. That still has to be addressed directly. Also, in the recent weeks or days there has been an upsurge in violence. The infrastructure for state- sponsored violence is still in place. I still have my doubts as to how this deal will impact the structures on the ground."

(c) 2008 Independent, The; London (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.