September 12, 2008

Zimbabwe’s Bitter Rivals Agree Power-Sharing Deal

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader has struck a deal to share power with President Robert Mugabe and bring an end to the political stalemate that has crippled the inflation-wracked African nation.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters last night that the parties "have got a deal". He did not elaborate on the terms of the agreement, saying the mediator would soon give details.

The mediator is South African President Thabo Mbeki, who confirmed later in the evening that he had successfully mediated a power-sharing deal.

He also refused to give details, but said that the agreement would be signed on Monday.

Mr Mbeki has been in Zimbabwe since Monday trying to resolve the impasse over whether Tsvangirai or Mugabe would wield the most authority in a unity government.

Tsvangirai has said he should be head of government and preside over Cabinet meetings, while Mugabe should be relegated to a ceremonial position.

Mugabe, however, has shown little willingness to give up much of the power he has held since independence from Britain in 1980.

But with his desire to cling to power at any price, the 84-year- old Zimbabwean president has virtually brought his country to its knees.

News of a power-sharing deal with Morgan Tsvangirai is just yet another chapter, not necessarily the final one, in the life of the "father of the nation".

Mr Mugabe was once regarded as a liberation hero and one of Africa's great leaders. After taking control in 1980 in the former Rhodesia, he spoke of democracy and invited the white minority to join him in building a strong nation.

The economy became robust, health and education services were progressive by African standards, and Mr Mugabe was well regarded abroad. However, the warning signs were already there.

In 1982, troops from his majority Shona tribe launched a long campaign of terror against the minority Ndebeles.

Mr Mugabe claimed his main political rival, Joshua Nkomo, was leading the Ndebeles in an armed rebellion.

At least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed, according to human rights groups.

When Mr Nkomo signed the unity accord in 1987 his Zapu party was subsumed into Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF. It was a typically canny move by Mr Mugabe, who has consistently out-manoeuvred his political opponents.

Mr Mugabe became president with Mr Nkomo his prime minister, but the junior partner was rendered politically impotent.

Under Mr Mugabe, Zimbabwe became known as the "breadbasket of southern Africa". But his rule was marked by the expropriation of white farms, which led to agricultural production plummeting and the crippling of the economy.

The strongest threat to his 28-year rule came in the form of Mr Tsvangirai, a former union boss.

But Mr Mugabe has consistently derided the MDC leader as a puppet of the "neo-colonialists" Clampdowns, including last year's arrest and severe beating of Mr Tsvangirai, increased Mr Mugabe's isolation around the world.

But it was a mark of his influence on the continent that African leaders continued to offer their tacit support for so long.

(c) 2008 Belfast Telegraph. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.