MDC denies cabinet deal imminent

HARARE – Zimbabwe's opposition on Tuesday denied a suggestion by President Robert Mugabe that a unity government deal was imminent, saying talks were still deadlocked.

Mugabe told supporters of his ZANU-PF party on Monday that he hoped the government would be formed by the end of this week, ending a two-week deadlock since a framework deal was signed on September 15.

The impasse with Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) over cabinet posts has dashed Zimbabweans’ hopes that the country could start to climb out of economic chaos marked by the world’s highest rate of hyper-inflation.

Tendai Biti, Secretary-General of Tsvangirai’s MDC, told Reuters: "He (Mugabe) obviously knows something that I do not know. We have a deadlock, and our positions are tangential.

"As far as we know, there was no agreement on anything."

Biti said a constitutional amendment still had to be drafted to give legal effect to the power-sharing deal.

"Also, importantly, constitutional amendment number 19 still has to be drafted, without it there is no legal foundation of the government. For instance, the constitution does not currently provide for the office of the prime minister," he said.

Tsvangirai, who is set to become prime minister under the deal, called on Saturday for the formation of a power-sharing government "in the next few days" to help end the crisis.

Mugabe will retain the presidency and chair the cabinet, while Tsvangirai heads a council of ministers supervising the cabinet.

Arthur Mutambara, leader of a small breakaway MDC faction, is set to be one of two deputy prime ministers.

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

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 which oversees local councils.

In another sign of the depth of the economic crisis, the central bank introduced higher denomination banknotes on Monday to keep pace with the devaluation of the currency because of inflation of 11 million percent.

The framework government deal was supposed to end a political crisis caused by Mugabe’s unopposed re-election in a presidential poll in June after Tsvangirai withdrew, citing systematic violence against his followers. Reuters