SADC leaders in new push to end Zim crisis

Southern African leaders will meet on Monday in a new push to salvage Zimbabwe’s stalled unity deal, four months after Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to share power.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe will host the 15 state Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Pretoria after renewed talks to set up a new government failed in Harare last week.

The negotiations take place as the European Union slaps fresh sanctions on Mugabe’s rule, and as the country battles an unchecked cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 2 800 people and infected more than 50 000.

Regional leaders see the unity agreement, which calls for 84-year-old Mugabe to remain as president while Tsvangirai becomes prime minister, as the best chance to break Zimbabwe’s political stand-off and economic collapse.

But the deal is teetering on the verge of collapse over a protracted dispute over which party will control top public posts, including the home affairs ministry which oversees the police.

The unresolved issues sank talks in Harare last Monday and both parties dug in their heels over the past week, with Mugabe’s ruling refusing to budge on the demands of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Tsvangirai told reporters that he was confident regional leaders would find a way to save the unity deal, but that his party’s issues needed to be ironed out.

The MDC wants an equitable share of ministerial portfolios and other key public posts, including governors, and for the make up of the country’s security council to be defined before a new government can be formed.

The party also wants all executive appointments unilaterally approved by Mugabe after July last year reversed, and for detained activists to be released.

But Mugabe’s Zanu-PF on Friday ruled out any negotiations on Cabinet posts and said the issue of governor and ambassador positions would be addressed by an inclusive government if vacancies arose.

“Our position is that we will not meet any new demands made by the MDC,” Mugabe’s lead negotiator Patrick Chinamasa told the state-run agency New-Ziana on Friday.

“We are not going to agree to a reopening of the subject on allocation of ministers,” he said, adding that the contentious home affairs portfolio would be co-shared as proposed by regional leaders at their last summit in November.

After several failed regional interventions, analysts said the latest initiative was unlikely to succeed.

“Unless SADC changes its approach radically, the likelihood of success remains very low,” said Laurence Caromba, an analyst at the Centre for International Political Studies in Pretoria.

The summit marks the fourth time that all SADC members, traditionally reluctant to condemn the worsening crisis under Mugabe’s leadership, have gathered to discuss Zimbabwe’s crisis since disputed
elections last March.

March’s first round presidential election, in which Tsvangirai placed first but did not win an outright majority, was followed by a brutal wave of political violence.

Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off, saying he had taken the decision because of violence against his supporters, leaving Mugabe to declare a one-sided victory in June.

Since then Zimbabwe has plunged ever deeper into crisis amid massive unemployment and crippling hyperinflation, while half the population dependent on food aid. - AFP


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