Fulsome praise for Mbeki for clinching Zimbabwe unity deal

HARARE – South African President Thabo Mbeki was the man of the hour in Africa Friday after clinching a hard-won power-sharing deal between Zimbabwe's rivals of nearly a decade – President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Welcoming Thursday’s agreement on the formation of a government of national unity, the details of which have yet to be released, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised Mbeki’s "tireless efforts to help them (the Zimbabwean leaders) reach it."

 

"He (Ban) hopes that this agreement will pave the way for a durable peace and recovery in the country and contribute to rapid improvement in the welfare and human rights of the people of Zimbabwe, who have suffered for long," the UN chief’s office said in a statement.

 

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, which is led by Mbeki’s rival Jacob Zuma, also described the deal as a "remarkable achievement" for Mbeki, who was mandated by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community last year to mediate in Zimbabwe.

 

The Johannesburg-based Star newspaper reported that the breakthrough came after Tsvangirai, who is slated to occupy a resurrected role of prime minister, alongside Mugabe as president, agreed to review the powers of a new council of ministers.

 

The council was proposed to end the deadlock between the two men over who would chair the cabinet. Mugabe is said to retain charge of the cabinet while Tsvangirai will head up the council of ministers.

 

Sources said Mugabe had balked at a previous proposal that would have given the council significant powers to formulate policy. According to the Star, the council will now have more of a support role.

 

Mbeki said details of the "unanimous" agreement would be released after the formal signing ceremony Monday in Harare that regional and African leaders would attend. The third party to the agreement was Arthur Mutambara, leader of a small MDC splinter faction.

 

Emerging from the talks, a beaming Tsvangirai said, "We have a deal," drawing cheers from journalist.

 

Analysts and Western observers reacted with caution however, saying the "devil would be in the detail."Western powers have said they will only support a government in which Tsvangirai is top dog.

 

The deal, which caps around eight weeks of stop-start talks held in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, comes at the end of a second four-day marathon round of Mbeki-brokered talks between the three leaders in Harare.

 

A first round collapsed in August after Tsvangirai backed away from a deal he said would have made him a toothless prime minister.

 

Zimbabweans have been hoping for a negotiated settlement to resolve the country’s nearly decade-long political and economic crisis, blamed largely on Mugabe’s populist policies.

 

Inflation is running at 11.2 million per cent and food is in critically short supply.