MDC blasts SADC leaders for "malicious" statement

Pretoria – Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Tuesday blasted as "malicious" assurances given by southern African leaders at the end of a 12-hour summit that the party had agreed to join President Robert Mugabe in a power-sharing government.

"It’s completely malicious," a spokesperson for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa after South African President Kgalema Motlanthe told reporters that Zimbabwe’s four-month-long political impasse had been resolved.

"There was no agreement. We will only form a government subject to the resolution of all of our demands," Joseph Mungwari said.

After 12 hours of talks between nine heads of state and government from the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salamao, reading from a communiqué, said: "The prime minister (Tsvangirai) and the deputy prime ministers shall be sworn in by 11 February 2009."

The swearing in of ministers from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and two factions of the MDC would take place two days later, ending the process of the formation of the inclusive government, according to SADC.

Remaining sticking points in the implementation of September’s power-sharing accord, which sees Mugabe remain president, would be dealt with afterwards, SADC said.

Sharing control

When asked whether the MDC had agreed, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said: "Yes, of course they will ensure that the amendment 19 (that makes Tsvangirai prime minister) is enacted and will present themselves on the said date for the swearing-in ceremony."

Motlanthe also maintained that the MDC had given in to a SADC proposal that it share control of the home affairs ministry with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.

"All the parties accepted that position of SADC," he said.

The MDC was not immediately available for comment on the claim but in a statement circulated after the end of the summit the party listed the allocation of ministries as a key sticking point at the outset of the talks and said the summit fell "far short of our expectations".

The party has also been demanding that dozens of its members that were arbitrarily detained or disappeared by state forces in recent months be released before it joins Mugabe in power.

Monday’s extraordinary SADC summit on Zimbabwe was the grouping’s third such summit on the country’s situation in under a year.

Before the talks got underway, the European Union slapped added sanctions on Mugabe allies and allied companies over the regime’s "ongoing failure to address the most basic economic and social needs of its people" and "the ongoing violations of human rights".

Region feeling economic meltdown

The MDC has gone cold on the prospect of sharing power with Mugabe because of Mugabe’s insistence on retaining the most important portfolios, bar finance, for his Zanu-PF.

Ahead of Monday’s talks, a Zimbabwe government spokesperson reiterated Mugabe’s threat to form a government without the MDC if it did not play ball.

The effects of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown are starting to be felt throughout the region.

At least 33 people have died of cholera in South Africa in recent months as sick, hungry Zimbabweans stream across the border.

Zimbabwe’s own death toll is close to 3 000 since August, when the outbreak began in crowded townships and half the population of about 11 million requires food aid. – Sapa-dpa

– SAPA