Mugabe optimistic on Zimbabwe cabinet deal

HARARE – Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe voiced optimism on Thursday about reaching an agreement with the opposition on forming a cabinet and said compromise was needed "on all sides".

Asked if he was still optimistic that political parties trying to rescue a power-sharing deal signed a month ago could reach a breakthrough, he said: "Yes. There is need for compromise on all sides."

"They (the opposition) maintain their position as we do," he told reporters after a third day of talks in Harare mediated by former South African president Thabo Mbeki ended without agreement.

Earlier on the MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told reporters that talks had reached a deadlock but efforts to secure a breakthrough would resume on Friday.

"We have reached a deadlock over the issue of the allocation of ministries. We have referred the matter to the facilitator," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said, referring to former South African presiudent Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating.

"Tomorrow the process will continue."

He said 10 ministries, including home affairs and defence were still in dispute.

Opposition official for the breakaway Movement for Democratic Change faction had said earlier on, negotiators had reached a compromise on the finance and home affairs ministries, a claim later refuted by the main opposition Spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

South Africa’s Talk Radio 702 quoted Welshman Ncube, secretary-general of the smaller opposition MDC faction that is taking part in talks with President Robert Mugabe and main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, as saying a deal was close.

Disagreements over the allocation of cabinet posts have stalled the formation of a unity government after a power-sharing deal was signed over a month ago.

Ncube is the chief negotiator for the Arthur Mutambara faction of the MDC.

He emerged during a break in negotiations and confirmed a compromise had been reached over the finance and home affairs ministries.

Those were the two ministries Morgan Tsvangirai was adamant had to be taken away from Zanu-PF.

It’s not clear exactly what the compromise is but there have been suggestions that a finance minister from the Mutambara faction would be acceptable to both sides.

Former president Thabo Mbeki is alleged to have told Mugabe that he can’t have control of both the army and police and may have persuaded him to back down on home affairs.

Meanwhile South African President Kgalema Motlanthe says he’s confident that his predecessor Thabo Mbeki will succeed in brokering a power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe.

Mbeki, Zanu-PF’s Robert Mugabe and the leaders of the two Movement for Democratic Change factions Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara entered into a third day of negotiations in Harare on Thursday aimed at expediting the formation of a unity government.

However, Motlanthe says time is running out for farmers who are crucial to addressing the country’s critical food shortage.

"It’s a race against time and we have got to assist Zimbabweans with the necessary supplies so that they don’t miss out on the planting season" said Motlanthe.