Chances for Zimbabwe deal slim: ZANU-PF official

HARARE (Reuters) – Prospects for a power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe look remote and the current round of negotiations is unlikely to produce a breakthrough, a senior ruling ZANU-PF party official said on Tuesday.

A new round of talks began in Harare on Monday between President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party seeking a deal to end a post-election crisis that is worsening Zimbabwe’s economic decline.

"Our assessment is that they are simply trying to put spanners in the works, and they are not serious about reaching a workable power-sharing arrangement," the ZANU-PF official told Reuters.

"If that is their approach, and we believe it is, there are just no prospects for any agreement. Instead of a power-sharing arrangement they are looking at deposing ZANU-PF and transferring power to the MDC through these talks."

The sides were due to meet again on Tuesday for talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Two months of meetings in South Africa and Harare have so far failed to ease divisions over how to share executive powers and Mugabe has threatened to form a cabinet without Tsvangirai.

ELECTION CHALLENGE

Tsvangirai said on Sunday he would rather quit talks than sign a bad deal and challenged Mugabe to hold a new election.

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

Mugabe’s victory in the election run-off was condemned around the world and drew toughened sanctions from Western countries whose support is vital for reviving Zimbabwe’s ruined economy.

Mbeki has come under repeated fire for not being tough enough with Mugabe, in power since 1980.

Other southern African leaders have taken a harder line against Mugabe, but he has resisted pressure, and Tsvangirai’s MDC has made it clear it has little faith in Mbeki as a mediator.

Further complicating the negotiations is the third faction — a breakaway group from the opposition MDC.

It had been seen as moving closer to Mugabe recently, but the faction led by Arthur Mutambara said on Monday it would not sign a unilateral deal with Mugabe if there was no agreement with Tsvangirai’s faction too.

Zimbabweans were hoping the election could produce a leadership able to tackle hyper-inflation and severe food and fuel shortages that have driven millions across the country’s borders, straining regional economies.