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Zimbabwe's political rivals near a deal on sharing power

©

Latest update : 2008-08-10

South African-brokered talks are expected to seal a power-sharing deal between political rivals Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe.

South African President Thabo Mbeki held talks with Zimbabwe's political rivals on Sunday as they edged closer to a power-sharing deal following Robert Mugabe's widely condemned re-election.
   
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe arrived at the hotel in central Harare where the meetings were to occur, making no comment as he followed a red carpet that led to an elevator inside.
   
Government ministers greeted the smiling 84-year-old leader as his motorcade pulled up.
   
Opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai had earlier arrived at the hotel, but left shortly afterward without commenting. Negotiators for his party exited after he did.
   
Asked whether there was any progress, opposition number two Tendai Biti, the party's chief negotiator, nodded yes and told reporters outside the Rainbow Towers hotel: "I think we all need to pray."
   
Mbeki, the mediator for the Zimbabwe talks, arrived in Harare late Saturday following more than two weeks of negotiations in South Africa in a bid to reach a power-sharing deal to resolve the country's political crisis.
   
The South African leader was to hold talks with Mugabe, opposition Movement for Democratic Change chief Tsvangirai and the head of a smaller MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, during his one-day visit.
   
His trip comes amid signs the rivals were nearing a deal in the negotiations, with both Mbeki's government and Mugabe reporting progress in recent days.
   
It is also ahead of Zimbabwe's Heroes' Day on Monday in honour of those who died in the guerrilla war that led to the country's independence and a summit of southern African heads of state next weekend in Johannesburg.
   
Zimbabwean state media reported Sunday that negotiators had reached agreement on key issues and Mbeki's meetings on Sunday would focus on hammering out details of a new government.
   
"Issues with the structure and scope of the new government are likely to take centre stage," The Sunday Mail newspaper said.
   
Quoting unnamed sources close to the talks, the government mouthpiece said negotiators for the ruling and opposition parties had already resolved issues related to land and other matters.
   
Land distribution has long been a major issue in Zimbabwe following independence from Britain in 1980. Mugabe embarked on a chaotic land reform programme at the turn of the decade which saw some 4,000 white-owned farms expropriated by the state.
   
Critics say the land programme led to Zimbabwe's economic meltdown, with the country facing the world's highest inflation rate and major food shortages.
   
Mugabe blames the country's woes on sanctions imposed by the EU and the United States following presidential elections in 2002 which the MDC and Western observers charged were rigged to hand the Zimbabwe president victory.
   
Power-sharing talks began after the political rivals signed a deal on July 21 laying the framework for negotiations following Mugabe's re-election in a one-candidate poll in June widely condemned as a farce.
   
Tsvangirai boycotted the June 27 presidential run-off despite finishing ahead of Mugabe in the March first round, citing rising violence against his supporters that had killed dozens and injured thousands.
   
The opposition leader believes his first-round total gives him the right to the lion's share of power, but sources in his party said previously that Mugabe's negotiators had only offered him one of several vice-presidential posts.
   
The ruling ZANU-PF party has insisted Mugabe must be recognised as president as part of any deal, since he won the June 27 vote.
   
Negotiations have reportedly included proposals for Mugabe to take on a more ceremonial role as president, with Tsvangirai being made executive prime minister.
   
However, analysts question whether Mugabe, as well as his allies among the country's highly influential security chiefs, will relinquish power and if the bitter arch-rivals could work together in a power-sharing government.
   
 

Date created : 2008-08-10

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