SADC calls for full emergency summit, ending Mbeki's monopoly and biased mediation

HARARE – Southern African grouping SADC called on Monday for an urgent full regional summit to make another attempt to break a deadlock in talks on forming Zimbabwe's cabinet under a power-sharing deal.

After talks with Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF and two factions of the opposition MDC, the bloc said the allocation of the Home Affairs Ministry was holding up progress in the negotiations.

Officials said the summit could be held this week or next week in an attempt to persuade President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and opposition factions to implement the accord, widely seen as vital to any effort to pull Zimbabwe out of economic meltdown.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) said the allocation of the interior ministry, which oversees the police force, was a sticking point in negotiations between ZANU-PF and the opposition on forming a cabinet.

SADC convened Monday’s meeting amid fears the September 15 power-sharing deal was about to unravel after weeks of fruitless negotiations between ZANU-PF and the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said no good news had emerged from the meeting of the leaders of Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland and South Africa, who held talks with ZANU-PF and the MDC factions.

"The extraordinary summit of the SADC Troika recommends the holding of a full SADC summit to review the political situation as a matter of urgency," SADC said in a communique.

"The extraordinary summit noted with concern disagreements in the allocation of the (interior) ministry … and urged parties concerned to reach an agreement," said SADC.

ECONOMIC TURMOIL

Asked what would happen if the planned summit failed to secure a breakthrough, SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao told reporters: "I can assure you that we will reach an agreement so that option is not relevant."

The power-sharing accord was brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and SADC has urged him to carry on with his mediation efforts.

Inflation is out of control and food and fuel shortages are widespread in Zimbabwe, a once prosperous country and former British colony.

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in a presidential election on March 29 but by too few votes to avoid a run-off in June. Mugabe won the second round after Tsvangirai pulled out, saying his supporters had been subjected to violence and intimidation.

Mugabe, 84 and Zimbabwe’s sole ruler since independence from Britain in 1980, has dismissed Tsvangirai as a "pathetic Western puppet" and vowed that he will never get near power.

The 56-year-old opposition leader has called Mugabe a "raving old man with nothing to offer".

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "remains distressed" over the human cost of the stalemate, a U.N. statement said.

"He is deeply concerned that the population of Zimbabwe in both rural and urban areas faces many challenges, including critical shortages of all food, essential drugs, basic services, and clean water," said the statement.

"It is urgent to resolve the ongoing political impasse so that recovery can begin." Source: Reuters