Mugabe threatens to break off Zim unity talks

Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF leader, Robert Mugabe, has threatened to break off power-sharing talks with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) if his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, declines a deal in their next meeting, state media said on Sunday.

“This is the occasion when it’s either they accept or it’s a break,” Mugabe said in the government mouthpiece Sunday Mail newspaper.

“We have gone past negotiations and whatever concessions were there to be made have already been made,” he said.

The comments were published on the eve of new talks led by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, aimed at reviving a unity accord meant to end the political stalemate that followed last year’s disputed elections.

Under the deal, 84-year-old Mugabe would remain as president while Tsvangirai would take the new post of prime minister, but the rivals have yet to agree on how to share power within Cabinet despite repeated interventions by African leaders.

Since leaders of the 15-nation South African Development Community (SADC) failed at a November summit to break the impasse, Tsvangirai has spent more than two months outside the country trying to lobby international support.

He returned to Zimbabwe on Saturday, saying that he was optimistic about the new meeting, but insisting that his MDC would not be “bulldozed” into a deal.

The SADC leaders in November had told Tsvangirai to join the unity government with Mugabe, and to settle any outstanding issues once the Cabinet is formed.

Mugabe insisted that Tsvangirai follow the SADC ruling, and claimed he had already done his part to pave the way for a new government.

“If they have any issues they deem outstanding, they can raise them after they come into the inclusive government,” he said in the Sunday Mail.

“This is a meeting which is taking place against a decision of SADC which we already have,” Mugabe said.

“We have signed an agreement which we have already gazetted as required by SADC. We have done all that SADC expected us to do and all that remains is fulfilling the agreement by forming an inclusive government,” he said.

The newspaper warned in an editorial that Mugabe could form a government with his Zanu-PF party, leaving out Tsvangirai, if no deal is reached.

“SADC must be prepared to live with the possibility that a government may have to be constituted without the MDC formations. Zimbabwe cannot remain in limbo forever,” it said.

If the MDC refuses to stick with the unity accord, “then it would have voluntarily collapsed the power-sharing agreement and freed Zanu-PF to go ahead and form the new government”, it added.

Tsvangirai was expected to meet with his party leadership on Sunday to decide how to proceed in the talks.

With the government in limbo, Zimbabwe’s already shattered economy has plunged to new depths, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has left half the population dependent on food aid as a cholera epidemic sweeps the nation.

In July, Zimbabwe’s already dizzying inflation was estimated at 231-million percent.
The government has stopped releasing estimates, but outside experts say the figure has reached astronomical heights many multiples higher.

The most concrete measure of collapse came on Friday, when the central bank unveiled a Z$100-trillion note, just one week after releasing a series of billion-dollar denominations that already have lost their value.

The United Nations warned on Friday that prevention measures have not yet slowed the cholera epidemic, which has claimed more than 2 200 lives.

The opening of school has been delayed for two weeks after the government failed to find enough people willing accept paltry wages to grade last year’s exams. Most teachers left their classrooms months ago to find new ways of eking out a living.—AFP

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