"Mugabe is trying to mislead the world" – Chamisa

HARARE – Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said no new talks on a unity government would be held on Monday and called for regional mediation to resolve a dispute on how to divide key ministries.

"As far as we are concerned, there are no talks lined up today [Monday]," Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the MDC, said.

He denied a report in the state-run Herald newspaper, which said President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and the MDC would meet Monday to resolve their differences over control of the finance and home affairs ministries.

"Nothing has been concluded. Zanu-PF and Mugabe are trying to mislead the world and the nation," Chamisa said.

"It is now time the Southern African Development Community [SADC] and the African Union come and assist in this matter," he added.

The MDC had called last week for SADC or the AU to help break the impasse, but Mugabe’s party insisted that no outside mediation was needed.

But new talks on Saturday among Mugabe, Tsvangirai and MDC splinter group leader Arthur Mutambara failed to resolve differences.

Chamisa said the MDC had proposed leaving Mugabe control of the Defence Ministry, if the opposition were given home affairs.

"It’s a deadlock," he said. "The country is at a standstill and people are dying of hunger and yet Zanu-PF is not moving an inch to take this country forward."

The South African government said on Friday that former president Thabo Mbeki, who brokered the power-sharing deal, had agreed to resume his mediation to resolve the crisis.

"We will issue a statement when he does go," Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said on Saturday.

Under the South African-brokered deal, Mugabe will remain as head of state after nearly three decades in power while Tsvangirai is to take up a new post of prime minister and Mutambara will be a deputy prime minister.

The deal was heralded as an historic initiative to resolve Zimbabwe’s political deadlock and economic meltdown.

Once one of Africa’s most-prosperous countries, Zimbabwe now suffers the world’s highest rate of inflation, last estimated at 11,2-million percent, with millions dependent on food aid.

Meanwhile, six months after elections, Zimbabwe still lacks a functioning government and is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Following the worst wheat harvest since the independence war, bread has run out and sugar supplies are set to follow. USAid, the American government humanitarian agency, is warning that the country could run out of maize, the staple food, by next month.

Farming officials say the government’s stated aim of producing maize on 500 000 hectares this season is unattainable.

"We are in serious trouble," said Jabulani Gwaringa, of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU), which represents small-scale operators. "There is no seed, fertiliser and crop chemicals on the market. Banks are not offering farmers any credit. In July we had produced about 25 000 metric tonnes of seed maize. We are down to 9 000 because farmers opted to eat their hybrid seed or sell it to millers." — AFP,