"Give us Home Affairs Ministry or say no deal" – Tsvangirai

HARARE – Zimbabwe's pro-democracy leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Sunday a troubled power-sharing agreement with President Robert Mugabe would be "stillborn" if Mugabe fails to yield at least control of the key Ministry of Home Affairs to Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Tsvangirai’s remarks put the agreement on even shakier ground than it had been Saturday after 84-year-old Mugabe, the autocratic head of the Zanu-PF party, declared Saturday that he had allocated to his party nearly all key ministries, including those responsible for the army, police and the secret police.

Under the power-sharing agreement, those were meant to be shared between the parties of Tsvangirai, Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara, head of a small faction of the MDC.

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Tsvangirai told about 15,000 ebullient supporters at a Harare rally Sunday that Mugabe "has been allocating himself ministries, but we haven’t agreed.

"Don’t take any notice of it. Power sharing is non-negotiable. If Zanu-PF takes (the ministry of) defence, we take home affairs (which includes the police). That is non-negotiable."

Tsvangirai, Mugabe and Mutambara are due to meet in Harare Monday with former South African president Thabo Mbeki, the mediator in negotiations that led to an agreement signed September 15 for an "inclusive" interim government meant to lift the country out economic, humanitarian and political chaos.

Tsvangirai said Sunday that "as long as there is an opportunity, we will continue to negotiate until we reach an agreement." But he also warned that the MDC would withdraw from talks on political power-sharing if mediation failed to break a month-long deadlock.

The implementation of the agreement has been stalled for nearly a month over the allocation of cabinet posts, with Mugabe demanding all the government’s important portfolios.

The MDC has insisted on running the home affairs ministry so it can reduce Mugabe’s control of the country’s security forces. It also wants to run the finance ministry, although it has agreed to let Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party retain the defence ministry.

Mugabe’s allocation of the ministries – officially proclaimed on Friday, "is not power-sharing, but power grabbing," Tsvangirai said. "Not even an idiot would accept that."

Mbeki was due in Harare on Monday to help resolve the impasse, Tsvangirai said. "We will try by all means to stick to this agreement. We shall negotiate until agreement is reached. But we will not compromise. If that fails, then we will say that this marriage failed to consummate (sic).

"If we don’t have the instruments affecting change in this agreement, then it is stillborn. That will be the end of it. We will try different ways," he said, accusing Mugabe of "destroying the agreement."

Mugabe was "not concerned about people’s problems, but with retention of power," Tsvangirai continued. Zanu-PF does not want the MDC to run the police because "they are afraid" of being investigated for corruption and theft of state property. "We have no plan to arrest," he went on. "Zanu-PF must understand we have no intention of embarking on a retributive agenda."

The rally was the first Tsvangirai has been able to hold without interruption by police for the last seven months. Authorities continue to refuse to issue a passport to him.

Zanu-PF suffered its first defeat in parliamentary elections and the presidential vote in March at the MDC’s hands. But Tsvangirai failed to win an outright majority in the presidential ballot, necessitating a second round.

Mugabe launched a bloody offensive of violent intimidation that saw about 130 MDC supporters murdered and thousands severely injured and made homeless. Mugabe was declared the winner, but the result was condemned by the rest of the world.