GNU under threat as leaders struggle to find common ground

HARARE – Zimbabwe's leaders last night failed for the fourth time in a fortnight to resolve a series of contentious issues threatening to paralyse the country’s shaky coalition government.

The crisis talks remained deadlocked after long hours of intense discussions, signalling a serious political problem besetting the new government.

A fierce power struggle is raging behind the scenes as President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai intensify their battle for political control.

Informed sources close to the talks said last night the meeting ended in a stalemate.

“The leaders agreed to meet again today to try and break the stalemate,” a senior government official said. “It’s proving to be very difficult because neither of the leaders want to make any concessions.”

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara met to sort out issues dividing the government. Their meeting followed similar gatherings on Monday and Thursday last week and another one on April 16.

So far, the four meetings have failed to break the impasse, leaving the unity government in a state of crisis. The issues at stake include appointment of senior government officials including permanent secretaries, the accounting officers of ministries, provincial governors and diplomats.

There is also the matter of the continued detention of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials and activists over allegations of trying to overthrow Mugabe, arraignment of MDC treasurer and deputy minister Roy Bennett and farm invasions.

Mugabe and the two MDC faction leaders, Tsvangirai and Mutambara, are also fighting over the president’s unilateral seizure of the department of communications from Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa, a member of the MDC .

Tsvangirai said last week these issues had to be resolved to allow the government deal with the country’s economic and social problems.

The deadlock came as Finance Minister Tendai Biti and his delegation to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings returned home empty-handed after failing to get a rescue package. Zimbabwe needs $10bn to fund its economic recovery programme.

The IMF said that it was not in a position to bail out Zimbabwe because of arrears and financial restrictions. – Business Day