Mugabe says deal expected this week Tsvangirai says unlikely

Harare – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said a deal in power-sharing talks is expected this week, state radio reported on Thursday, a day after the opposition chief said negotiations had deadlocked.

The radio also reported that South African President Thabo Mbeki, the mediator in the talks, was expected in Zimbabwe on Thursday as part of the negotiations, but his spokesperson denied the report.

"The president is not going to Zimbabwe," Mbeki spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said, adding however that the power-sharing talks were continuing.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Wednesday that the talks were deadlocked over Mugabe’s desire to retain control of the country’s security forces.

Fragment the cabinet

A power-sharing deal put forward under Mbeki proposed that Tsvangirai become prime minister and Mugabe retain the presidency in an inclusive government.

"But in this case," Tsvangirai told South African radio, "there was an attempt to fragment the cabinet, with some ministers reporting to the president and some ministers reporting to the prime minister."

The deal would have seen economic and social ministries report to the prime minister and security ministries answering to the president, including the army and police which Tsvangirai said Mugabe had used to "brutalise" people.

Zimbabwe’s crisis intensified after Mugabe’s re-election in a widely condemned June presidential run-off in which he was the only candidate.

Tsvangirai boycotted the election despite finishing ahead of Mugabe in the March first round, citing rising violence against his supporters.

Earlier on the state media said embattled Zanu PF leader Robert Mugabe  would go ahead and form a cabinet if opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai does not sign a power-sharing deal today, state media reported. 

State radio said South African President Thabo Mbeki was expected to arrive in Zimbabwe on Thursday to continue mediation efforts aimed at ending a post-election crisis that has worsened its economic decline.

"We are a government and we are a government that was empowered by elections. So we should form a cabinet. We will not allow a situation where we will not have a cabinet forever," the state-run Herald newspaper quoted Mugabe as saying.

"If after tomorrow (Thursday) Tsvangirai does not want to sign we will certainly put together a cabinet. We feel frozen at the moment."

Mugabe was speaking to reporters in Lusaka on Wednesday attending the funeral of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, the newspaper said.

The negotiations have stalled over how executive power should be shared by Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in a March 29 election but fell short of enough votes to avoid a run-off vote, which was won by Mugabe unopposed after Tsvangirai pulled out citing violence and intimidation against his supporters.

Mbeki was expected to meet both Tsvangirai’s main Movement for Democratic Change and the MDC’s breakaway faction led by Arthur Mutambara, who analysts say has emerged as a kingmaker and has moved closer to Mugabe.

Citing a diplomatic source, South Africa’s Business Day newspaper said Mbeki held brief talks with Mugabe and Tsvangirai on Wednesday at Mwanawasa’s funeral.

Mbeki was expected to propose that all of Mugabe’s executive powers should be discussed and ways be found of dividing them equally with Tsvangirai.

In an interview with South Africa’s Talk Radio 702 broadcast on Wednesday, Tsvangirai said the talks had broken down and were unlikely to resume soon.

Zimbabweans are suffering from the world’s highest inflation rate of over 11 million percent, and chronic food, fuel and foreign currency shortages that have driven millions over borders and strained regional economies. With Reuters