Zimbabwe talks deadlocked, mediation needed: MDC

HARARE – Zimbabwe's opposition said on Tuesday talks on forming a cabinet with President Robert Mugabe's party were deadlocked over all key ministries and called for urgent African mediation.

The opposition MDC and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF have been in talks since an outline power-sharing deal on September 15 to end a political crisis that worsened after a disputed election and which has accelerated Zimbabwe’s economic collapse.

The two sides have been unable to agree on sharing cabinet posts, but ZANU-PF said at the weekend the dispute now centred on the finance and home affairs ministries.

"The MDC dismisses ZANU-PF claims that only two cabinet posts are yet to be resolved," the opposition said in a statement.

It called for help from the southern African regional grouping SADC and the African Union. The power-sharing deal was brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who remains as mediator despite being ousted as president.

ZANU-PF officials were not immediately available for comment.

A senior ZANU-PF official said on Monday that Mugabe was expected to meet opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the next two days in another attempt to break a deadlock over cabinet posts.

NO CONTACT

But the opposition said there had been no contact between the parties since talks on Saturday between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a breakaway MDC faction.

"Considering the fact that it is now exactly 21 days after the signing of the global agreement, the cabinet deadlock calls for the urgent help and assistance from SADC and AU as guarantors of the deal to unfreeze the impasse," said the MDC.

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

Mugabe was re-elected unopposed in a June ballot from which Tsvangirai withdrew, citing attacks on his supporters.

Without a breakthrough, Zimbabwe’s economy could worsen still further. The once-prosperous nation is crumbling under inflation of about 11 million percent — the highest in the world — and chronic food shortages.

Some economists believe Zimbabwe’s inflation rate is now over 40 million percent.

Zimbabweans have to queue for hours, sometimes overnight, to withdraw money from banks where withdrawal limits have been imposed by the central bank.

"MDC is concerned with the prolonged and protracted dialogue considering that the people are dying of hunger, factories closed, school calendars disrupted, workers not going to work and disease outbreak," said the MDC.

"The country is at a standstill and the people’s patience is running out, hence the resolution of the impasse is more urgent than ever before." With Reuters