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Tsvangirai seeks to control home affairs

Zimbabwe’s main opposition faction, headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, is prepared to sign a 50-50 power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF, provided that the opposition is given the powerful Ministry of Home Affairs, which controls the police.

A senior official of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said on Monday that Morgan Tsvangirai is ready to sign the deal if he is given real power and not just a ceremonial prime minister’s post, as Mugabe has demanded.

Talks on power-sharing between the three key parties — Zanu-PF, the MDC under Tsvangirai and the Arthur Mutambara-led faction of the MDC — have been bogged down by differences on which ministries Mugabe and Tsvangirai should control.

The three parties already seem to have agreed that Mugabe will remain president while Tsvangirai becomes prime minister. Mutambara’s party was supposed to get the post of speaker of Parliament, but the plan was scuttled after the two factions disagreed on the candidate and it was taken over by the Tsvangirai faction.

The MDC under Tsvangirai has 100 out of 210 seats in the House of Assembly. The Mutambara faction has 10 seats, and Zanu-PF has 99. An independent candidate holds the remaining seat.

Mugabe, in power since 1980, is reportedly insisting that he retain the security ministries, including defence, justice (along with prisons), and home affairs.

He has offered economic ministries to Tsvangirai in what observers believe is an effort to gain sympathy from the West so that sanctions can be lifted in order to get Zimbabwe’s economy back on track. At present, inflation is put at anything above 20-million percent, and the Zimbabwe dollar has been losing half its value almost weekly.

Tsvangirai told his supporters on Sunday that he would rather have fresh elections than accept a deal in which he would not be given real power.

A senior official of the party said the MDC would sign the deal if it was given the home affairs post because it would be in charge of the police.

”We want that post so that we can arrest the war veterans and the militias that go around beating up people. If Mugabe retains that post, we are in trouble [and] the violence will continue, so we won’t sign,” the official said.

Asked whether it was not be better to sign the agreement and then try to reform the government from within, the official said: ”That’s a non-starter. You people don’t know Mugabe. [Joshua] Nkomo tried it and failed.”

South African President Thabo Mbeki was due in Zimbabwe on Monday to try to seal the deal between the three parties.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of the presidential elections in March but failed to win an outright victory to avoid a run-off. His party claims it won an outright victory. He pulled out of the run-off scheduled for June 27 citing violence that left more than 100 people dead, leaving Mugabe to win uncontested.

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