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Regional leaders try to save Zimbabwe unity deal

Regional leaders try to save Zimbabwe unity deal

Southern African leaders met for a mini-summit in Harare Monday in what was seen as a last chance to save Zimbabwe's power-sharing agreement.
The deal signed Sept. 15 has stalled over how to share government ministries among President Robert Mugabe's party, Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and a smaller opposition group. Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, of trying to hold onto too many of the most powerful posts, including the home affairs and finance ministries.
Tsvangirai was scheduled to deliver a position paper demanding an equal share of the ministries during the meeting being held at a Harare hotel under tight security.
In addition to Mugabe, Tsvangirai, and the smaller opposition group's leader, Arthur Mutambara, the meeting was attended by leaders from South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Swaziland.
One of the key Zimbabwe ministries in dispute is the home affairs ministry in charge of the police. Mugabe claimed control of the police ministry when he unilaterally published a Cabinet list Oct. 11.
Tsvangirai has been under intense pressure from within his party not to yield control of police, blamed for some of the political violence against his supporters surrounding elections in March and June.
At weekend rallies, he accused Mugabe of negotiating in bad faith, citing the refusal to renew his passport.
"There is nothing wrong with the deal, but the problem is Mugabe wants to grab all key ministries. I will not go in if I am not given the tools to perform," Tsvangirai told supporters Saturday.
Mugabe's chief negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa, described Monday's talks as "probably the last chance for a settlement," The Herald, a government mouthpiece, reported. The talks with regional leaders were expected to "end the saga (and) bring finality one way or the other so that the country can move forward," he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the summit as a "critical opportunity" to form a new government based on an equitable division of power, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said at U.N. headquarters in New York.
She said Ban "remains distressed about the growing human cost of the crisis in Zimbabwe, in particular given the signs that the humanitarian situation in the country may worsen in the course of 2008 and 2009."
Montas said Ban was concerned about critical shortages of food, essential drugs, basic services and clean water.
Veritas, an independent legal advice group in Zimbabwe that consults with the opposition, said in a statement Monday that Tsvangirai was considering asking for other African and international statesmen to intervene if the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union failed to resolve the matter.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki also attended Monday's meeting as the mediator who brokered the deal. Tsvangirai has repeatedly questioned whether Mbeki was too close to Mugabe to be an effective mediator.
In considering a call for international statesmen to take over, Tsvangirai could be recalling the process under which former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated a power-sharing deal in Kenya after a dispute over presidential elections there last year led to widespread violence.
An agreement in Zimbabwe would allow politicians to turn their attention to the nation's economic meltdown, which has led to chronic shortages of food, gasoline and most basic goods; daily outages of power and water; and the collapse of health and education services.
Zimbabweans are struggling with the world's highest official inflation rate of 231 million percent. The U.N. predicts half the population will need food aid by 2009.
A doctors group on Sunday reported at least 120 preventable deaths across the county this year from cholera. At least 27 people have died in the past month.
In a reflection of inflation, the main state daily newspaper cost 10 Zimbabwe dollars shortly before the power sharing deal was signed. Monday's edition cost 20,000 Zimbabwe dollars, the equivalent of 50 U.S. cents (40 euro cents) at the dominant black market exchange rate.


Updated : 2021-05-14 19:52 GMT+08:00