Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) should accept a power-sharing deal signed last September or end talks over the implementation of the agreement, state media reported on Sunday.
"This is the occasion when it’s either they accept or it’s a break. After all this is an interim agreement. If they have any issues they deem outstanding, they can raise them after they come into the inclusive government," Mugabe was quoted as saying in the weekly Sunday Mail.
Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai are set to meet the presidents of regional powers South Africa and Mozambique and mediator Thabo Mbeki on Monday to try to break the impasse.
Those talks will be followed by meetings between Zimbabwean negotiators on issues holding back the agreement on forming a unity government, South Africa’s presidency said last week.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Reuters that a meeting of the party’s top leadership on Sunday resolved not to join the unity government until its demands for equitable sharing of cabinet posts with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF were met.
"Our meeting has resolved that unless the outstanding issues relating to the inter-party dialogue are resolved, the MDC will not be joining the GNU (government of national unity)," he said.
"Our modest request is that tomorrow’s meeting should bring finality to this process. Failure to resolve these matters will mean the failure of the meetings."
The power-sharing agreement is still seen as the best chance of preventing total economic collapse and the worsening of a growing humanitarian crisis in once prosperous Zimbabwe.
The country is suffering hyper-inflation and food shortages, and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 2 000 people.
‘All concessions have been made’
Mugabe, 84, said his party had made all the concessions it was willing to make and was now ready to form the inclusive government as required by the September agreement.
"We have gone past negotiations and whatever concessions were there to be made have already been made.
"We have done all that SADC (Southern African Development Community) expected us to do and all that remains is fulfilling the agreement by forming an inclusive government," the paper quoted him as saying.
Chamisa said Mugabe’s statements threatened to undermine the dialogue process.
"Mugabe lost an election, he is in no position to be giving ultimatums. We are in negotiations and the sooner he realises that, the better," Chamisa said.
First things first
He said MDC lawmakers would not co-operate in a bid to pass constitutional amendments seeking to provide the legal basis for the power-sharing deal and create the office of prime minister for Tsvangirai until power-sharing talks were finalised.
"Any attempt to introduce the amendment bill in parliament before outstanding issues in the dialogue are addressed would be an ambush, and we can’t be ambushed in parliament. We will resist any such attempt," Chamisa said.
At a news conference in South Africa on Thursday, Tsvangirai – who returned to Zimbabwe on Saturday after more than two months outside the country – demanded the unconditional release of detained party activists before the power-sharing deal with Mugabe could be implemented.
He said he was committed to the September agreement, but said he lacked a credible partner, accusing Mugabe’s government of breaching the pact by detaining opposition activists. – Reuters