Opposition says Zimbabwe deadlock can be overcome

HARARE – Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Saturday a deadlock in power-sharing talks with President Robert Mugabe could be overcome and he hoped the two would meet to end a stalemate in the coming days.

"I’m sure there are no problems in the outline of the agreement that are not surmountable," Tsvangirai told a news conference in Harare. "If there are political problems, that’s why we have a leadership forum to resolve those issues."

A deadlock over the allocation of cabinet posts has dimmed hopes that a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai would bring a quick solution to Zimbabwe’s economic and political crisis.

"This matter will be resolved, Tsvangirai said. "I hope we will meet as principals, within a couple of days."

Tsvangirai, who is set to become prime minister under the deal, called for the formation of a power-sharing government in the next few days to end an economic crisis that has caused food and fuel shortages, hyperinflation and widespread poverty.

Under the power-sharing deal, Mugabe retains the presidency and chairs the cabinet, while Tsvangirai as prime minister chairs a council of ministers supervising the cabinet.

Arthur Mutambara, who heads a small faction of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is also taking part in the negotiations and is set to be one of two deputy prime ministers.

The opposition will also get a combined cabinet majority, with Tsvangirai’s MDC getting 13 posts in the new government, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF 15 and Mutambara’s breakaway MDC faction three.

FOOD AID

The MDC says it does not oppose Mugabe taking charge of the army but is against him keeping control of all key ministries, including home affairs — in charge of the police, finance, foreign affairs, justice, information and local government.

Tsvangirai also highlighted food shortages in Zimbabwe and said a new government should urgently request international food aid. About 5.5 million Zimbabweans will require food assistance by January, he said.

"I am sad to report that my preliminary findings show a state of emergency in the area of food security with disastrous consequences if we take too long to attend to the crisis," he said.

Zimbabwe negotiating parties still respected former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s mediation despite his sudden resignation this week, he said.

Mugabe was quoted by state media as saying the resignation of Mbeki, who was frequently criticised for taking a soft line with his Zimbabwean counterpart, was "devastating".

Mugabe has been in New York this week, where he used a fiery speech at the United Nations to urge the lifting of what he called "illegal" sanctions on his country. Reuters