Zimbabwe rivals to sign landmark power-sharing deal

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai will sign a power-sharing deal on Monday likely to allow Mugabe to retain a grip on the army, and the opposition to control the police.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai last week agreed a pact to end a deep political crisis compounded by the veteran leader’s disputed and unopposed re-election in June.

Zimbabweans hope the agreement will be a first step in helping to rescue the once prosperous nation from economic collapse. Inflation has rocketed to over 11 million percent and millions have fled to neighbouring southern African countries.

Under the deal brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki, Tsvangirai would become prime minister and chair a council of ministers that supervised the cabinet.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF would have 15 cabinet seats, Tsvangirai’s MDC 13 and a splinter MDC faction three seats.

Mugabe, 84, has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron hand since its independence from Britain in 1980 and will remain president.

Analysts say the power-sharing deal is fragile and will require former enemies to put aside their differences and work closely to overcome scepticism, especially from Western powers whose financial support will be vital for recovery.

The two political rivals met on Saturday and agreed to share out 31 cabinet posts. The powerful state security ministry was abolished while the justice portfolio was split into two and a new prisons department was formed.

The supreme decision making body of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) group, its national council, met in Harare on Sunday and endorsed the power-sharing agreement, a day after Mugabe’s inner politburo approved the deal.

"The national council met today and endorsed the agreement but it mandated the negotiators to negotiate for five key ministries," an opposition council member told Reuters.

SHARING OUT THE MINISTRIES

The MDC wants to take control of ministries of home affairs in charge of the police, local government to oversee councils, one of the justice ministries, information and the finance ministry giving it responsibility for rescuing the economy.

In return, the MDC is ready to agree to leave Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF in charge of other key ministries.

ZANU-PF and MDC negotiators will meet early on Monday on how to allocate the 31 ministries. Names of individuals to head the ministries are likely to be announced later in the week, a government official said.

There would also be a national security council, replacing a joint operations command comprising security service chiefs who the opposition say were instrumental in organising a violent campaign that returned Mugabe to power.

The plan is for Mugabe and Tsvangirai to sign the agreement at 0800 GMT in the presence of Mbeki and representatives of as many as 20 African nations. However, the ceremony could be delayed while the allocation of ministries is completed.

Mbeki brokered Thursday’s deal aimed at ending months of crisis in Zimbabwe, where Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the first round of a presidential election in March, but pulled out of the June run-off citing a systematic campaign of violence against his supporters.