Mbeki will arrive on Monday to salvage peace talks

Mukoni Ratshitanga said Mbeki would meet with the country’s political leadership to continue the Sadec-mandated facilitation process which he began in March.

Mbeki will be accompanied by a facilitation team of former provincial and local government minister Sydney Mufamadi, director general in the presidency Rev Frank Chikane and advocate Mojanku Gumbi.

On Friday, news agency AFP said Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe agreed to allow in outside mediation to break a four-week deadlock over cabinet posts in a unity government with the Movement for Democratic Change.

Zimbabwe’s outraged opposition accused President Robert Mugabe of killing off a power-sharing deal on Sunday after he unilaterally handed key ministries to his own party.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was due to address a rally in the capital Harare, while former South African president Thabo Mbeki prepared for a make-or-break trip to Zimbabwe on Monday to try and get the deal back on track.

Mbeki, who brokered the September 15 accord, will face a difficult challenge as Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has already indicated that the deal lies dead in the water.

"It kills the talks completely," MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said.

"This flies in the face of the dialogue and an attempt by the SADC (Southern African Development Community) to help us out of this crisis. Clearly, it is an act in bad faith," Chamisa told South African SABC radio.

Tsvangirai was expected to give his first reaction to Mugabe’s shock announcement at around 2pm when he addresses MDC supporters at a rally in the Harare township of Highfield.

Mbeki, the SADC-appointed mediator for Zimbabwe’s months-long political crisis, will hold discussions Monday with the three parties that signed the power-sharing accord, his spokesman said.

"The allocation of the ministries and all other issues will be discussed in Harare when he meets that country’s political leaders," the spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said.

The MDC’s Chamisa implored Mbeki and the 15-member SADC to rescue the agreement.

"Mr Mbeki, please help Zimbabwe. We need your help. We also need the help of and support of the SADC," he said.

A government notice carried by the state-run Herald newspaper said Saturday that Mugabe had given his Zanu-PF party 14 ministries, including defence, home and foreign affairs, justice, local government and state media.

In power since Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence from Britain, Mugabe’s decision means he would effectively retain control of the army, police and other state security apparatus.

Edwin Mushoriwa, spokesperson for the breakaway MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara that also signed the September 15 deal, condemned the move as "hallucination on the part of Zanu-PF."

"That list is what they wish to happen. It was not agreed on. As far as we know, there was no agreement on the allocation of cabinet posts," he said.

According to Saturday’s report, Tsvangirai’s MDC would get 13 mostly less significant portfolios while Mutambara’s faction would get three ministries.

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in a first round presidential vote in March but pulled out of a June run-off because of deadly violence against his supporters. Zanu-PF lost control of parliament to the MDC in March’s legislative elections.

Zimbabweans hoped the September power-sharing accord – which envisages the 84-year-old Mugabe remaining president while Tsvangirai takes the new post of prime minister – would being an end to years of political turmoil and economic ruin.

But efforts to form the government have bogged down over disputes about who will control the most important ministries, such as defence, home affairs and finance.

Zimbabwe is now a far cry from the model regional economy and breadbasket it once was. Inflation soared to 231 million percent in July, while food and basic goods are critically understocked and unemployment rampant.

The country is set to unveil a new 50 000-dollar banknote on Monday, the central bank said.

The new note – which will come barely two weeks after the launch of a 20 000-dollar banknote – is worth five US dollars on the parallel market and 294 dollars at the official rate, and is enough for three loaves of bread. – Sapa-AFP