Zimbabwe regime says talks over, cabinet to be formed

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe's government said on Tuesday power-sharing talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have concluded and President Robert Mugabe will form a new cabinet.

"No, there is not going to be any negotiations. I think that process is done, concluded and the president will form a new cabinet. If they (the MDC) think they can hold Zimbabwe to ransom, it will be very unfortunate," Zimbabwe’s Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told the BBC.

Regional leaders decided at a summit on Tuesday that Zimbabwe should form a unity government next month but the opposition said it was disappointed with the outcome, raising doubts over chances for ending the crisis.

The 15-nation SADC grouping said after the meeting in South Africa — its fifth attempt to secure a deal on forming a unity government — it had agreed that opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai should be sworn in as prime minister by February 11.

All parties agreed control of the hotly disputed Home Affairs Ministry, which has been a major obstacle to a final agreement, should be divided between President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s MDC for six months, said South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.

"All the parties expressed confidence in the process and committed to implementing the agreement," Motlanthe, current SADC chairman, told a news conference.

But the MDC quickly issued a statement after the SADC communique was read out, making clear its disappointment and raising the possibility that deadlock would drag on as Zimbabweans face growing economic hardship.

"Prospects for agreement do not look good, especially because SADC has, once again, come out in support of Mugabe and maintaining pressure on the MDC," said Zimbabwean political analyst John Makumbe.

"If the MDC insists there is no deal, then SADC would have failed and the next step would be to take the matter to the African Union".

The MDC said "quite clearly the conclusions reached as reflected in the communique fall far short of our expectations". The party’s national council would meet this weekend to define its position on the summit.  

CHOLERA DEATHS INCREASE

The signing of the power-sharing deal in September was seen as a chance to prevent an economic collapse that would add to the strain on neighbours already hosting millions of Zimbabweans who fled in search of work.

Others are escaping a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 3,000 people and infected more than 56,000 since August — Africa’s worst outbreak of the disease in 12 years, according to World Health Organisation data.

SADC said ministers would be sworn in on February 13, which would conclude the process to form an unity government. Allocation of ministries would be reviewed six months after the inauguration of the government, it added.

Western leaders want Mugabe to step down and a democratic government to embrace economic reforms before billions of dollars in aid is offered, but Mugabe has refused.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "very concerned" by Mugabe’s refusal to reach a deal and wants South Africa, which has the most regional economic and diplomatic clout, to put more pressure on him, the State Department said on Monday.

In Brussels, the European Union added 27 individuals and 36 firms to a sanctions list, EU officials said on Monday.

Mugabe, in power since 1980, and his ZANU-PF party have urged the opposition to join a unity government but say they will not hesitate to form one without them.

Zimbabwe’s rival parties have been locked in a dispute over control of key ministries while food and fuel are in short supply and many shops have stopped taking the increasingly worthless local currency.

The recently introduced 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollar note cannot buy a loaf of bread, which costs Z$30 trillion. Two weeks ago, a loaf of bread cost Z$30 billion.