Mbeki heads to Zimbabwe to salvage shattered deal

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who brokered an accord between Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, will visit Harare to seek a way through the impasse over ministry sharing.


Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai threatened Sunday to pull out of a power-sharing deal with Robert Mugabe after the president handed key ministries to his own party.

The government announced Saturday that Mugabe had given his ZANU-PF party 14 ministries, including defence, home and foreign affairs, justice, local government and state media.

In power since Zimbabwe's 1980 independence from Britain, Mugabe's shock announcement also meant he would effectively retain control of the army, police and the rest of the state security apparatus.

"If they (ZANU-PF) do it that way, we have no right to be part of such an arrangement," Tsvangirai told a rally of 8,000 supporters in Harare.

Tsvangirai, who defeated Mugabe in a first round presidential vote in March but pulled out of a June run-off because of violence against his supporters, said he was prepared to renegotiate the whole deal if his 84-year-old rival followed through with his stated allocation of ministries.

"The people have suffered. But if it means suffering the more in order for them to get what is at stake, then so be it," he said.

ZANU-PF lost control of parliament for the first time to Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the March legislative elections.

Zimbabweans hoped the September 15 power-sharing accord -- which should see Mugabe remain president while Tsvangirai takes the new post of prime minister -- would end months of political turmoil and years of economic ruin.

But efforts to form a government have bogged down by disputes over who will control the key defence, home affairs and finance ministries.

"We had thought that they would be reasonable and equitable in power-sharing," said Tsvangirai, adding that it was out of the question for ZANU-PF officials to have the defence and home affairs portfolios.

"We will renegotiate until an agreement is reached but that does not mean we will compromise for the sake of it," he told the rally in the Harare township of Highfield.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who brokered the September 15 accord, will visit Harare on Monday to seek a way through the impasse over ministries, Mbeki spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga told AFP.

Edwin Mushoriwa, spokesman for the breakaway MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara that also signed the September 15 deal, condemned the move as "hallucination on the part of ZANU-PF."

"That list is what they wish to happen. It was not agreed on. As far as we know, there was no agreement on the allocation of cabinet posts," he told AFP.

According to the government announcement in the state-controlled Herald newspaper, Tsvangirai's MDC would get 13 mostly less significant portfolios while Mutambara's faction would get three ministries.

African Union chief Jean Ping, on a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, called on the Zimbabwe's political rivals to end the squabbling and honour the terms of the power-sharing deal.

"We are making an appeal to the Zimbabwean parties for this accord to be implemented correctly," Ping said.

Zimbabwe is now a far cry from the model regional economy and breadbasket it once was. Inflation soared to 231 million percent in July, while food and basic goods are critically understocked and unemployment rampant.

The country is set to unveil a new 50,000-dollar banknote on Monday, the central bank said.

The new note -- which will come barely two weeks after the launch of a 20,000-dollar banknote -- is worth five US dollars on the parallel market and 294 dollars at the official rate, and is enough for three loaves of bread.

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