Zanu-PF rejects call for new Mbeki mediation

Mbeki, whose party last week forced him to resign in a separate power struggle, mediated the deal between President Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai to form a unity government.

The agreement, signed on September 15, had been hailed as a breakthrough in Zimbabwe’s political crisis, sparked after Mugabe lost a first round of elections in March.

Negotiations have bogged down on forming a Cabinet, with Tsvangirai’s MDC claiming that Mugabe wants to retain key posts — believed to be the defence, home affairs, state security and finance ministries.

After Mugabe and Tsvangirai failed to resolve their differences during a meeting on Tuesday, the MDC called on Mbeki and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to resume their mediation to break through the logjam.

But the chief negotiator for Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party denied any deadlock, saying no outside mediation was needed.

"Anyone who says there is a deadlock is being mischievous. There is commitment on all of us to make things work," Patrick Chinamasa told AFP.

"If there was a disagreement, as is being suggested, I don’t think it’s one that would justify calling in the facilitator," Chinamasa said.

"If there are any issues, I believe they can resolve them among themselves," he added.

MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said the party had already contacted SADC, which has appointed Mbeki as its mediator.

"This is an urgent matter, communication lines to SADC have been activated," Chamisa said.

Mbeki’s forced resignation as South Africa’s president last week raised concerns about the fragile pact he had brokered to divide powers between Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai in the new post of prime minister.

Dim prospect

Mugabe said on Monday that a new government would be formed by the end of the week, but that now appears a dim prospect.

SADC spokesperson Charles Mubita on Wednesday said the group had not been contacted about the stand-off but said Mbeki was the "only channel" for handling Zimbabwe’s crisis.

"If there is anything that needs to be discussed with Zimbabwe, there are channels, and the only channel is through the facilitator," he said.

"They will then have to get in touch with the SADC mediator, which is former president Thabo Mbeki."

Mbeki’s spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said SADC would have to "formally pronounce" whether the former president would continue as mediator.

However, he added: "Mbeki will participate in any process that is aimed at taking the African continent a step forward."

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and MDC splinter group leader Arthur Mutambara agreed on September 15 to a landmark power-sharing agreement.

The deal brokered by Mbeki was heralded as a historic initiative to resolve Zimbabwe’s political deadlock and economic meltdown.

Once one of Africa’s most prosperous countries, Zimbabwe now suffers the world’s highest rate of inflation, last estimated at 11,2-million percent, leaving 80% of the population living in poverty. — AFP