Zimbabwe deal imminent, Mugabe backs down on key Ministries – Reports

HARARE – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe could back down on the allocation of key ministries to his ruling ZANU-PF party to save a power-sharing deal with the opposition, state media reported on Thursday.

Mugabe is in talks with MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara — mediated by former South African President Thabo Mbeki — to resolve a dispute over cabinet posts threatening an agreement signed on September 15.

The state-run Herald newspaper quoted a senior official from Mugabe’s party as saying there could be changes to a list of ministry allocations announced last week, which infuriated the opposition by giving top posts to ZANU-PF.

"I am not in a position to say what these changes will entail because the matter is now being handled largely at the highest level, that is at the level of the three party leaders," the official said.

The opposition said on Wednesday that the parties were close to a deal on forming a cabinet.

Mugabe was also upbeat, saying he expected talks aimed at rescuing a power-sharing deal to be sealed on Thursday. Mutambara said the parties were "very close" to an agreement.

But MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti was not so hopeful as Tsvangirai arrived at the talks venue on Thursday for another round of negotiations.

"Where is this optimism coming from?," he asked.

Tsvangirai threatened to pull out of the agreement on Sunday after Mugabe allocated key ministries, including defence, home affairs — which oversees the police — and finance, to his ZANU-PF party.

Zimbabwe’s political parties are close to a deal on forming a cabinet and political analysts say history is being made in negotiations between President Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai.

Reports say Mugabe is also upbeat, saying he expects talks aimed at rescuing a power-sharing deal to be sealed by the end of today.

Arthur Mutambara, leader of a splinter Movement for Democratic Change faction, says the parties are very close to an agreement.

Meanwhile South African President Kgalema Motlanthe has warned that the international community will not move in to assist Zimbabwe with an economic recovery plan if there’s no government in place as mandated by the power sharing agreement signed last month.

Motlanthe is optimistic that Zimbabwe’s political parties will be able to agree on the disputed matter of equitable sharing of cabinet ministers in the unity government.

President Motlanthe says he believes that former President Thabo Mbeki will be able to break the impasse

Mugabe’s party lost its majority for the first time since independence from Britain in 1980 after a March 29 election which the opposition says he rigged to keep power.

The parties are under pressure to reach a settlement and international donors have pledged to pump money into the once prosperous southern African nation if a democratic government is formed and economic reforms implemented.

A new government will have to tackle the world’s highest inflation rate of 231 million percent and severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages. Reuters