|October 8, 2008
MDC quits unity talks over deadlock
Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal is teetering on the brink of collapse after Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) negotiators walked out of a critical meeting with Zanu (PF) yesterday as a dispute over ministerial posts intensified. Unless the mediator, former president Thabo Mbeki, intervenes to break the deadlock, talks over the allocation of 31 government ministries might soon be abandoned. Three meetings involving President Robert Mugabe and main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai have failed to resolve the issue.
The Southern African Development Community and the South African government have agreed that Mbeki can continue as mediator. Mugabe and Tsvangirai met on Saturday for the third time, but deadlocked over the distribution of ministries, the allocation of which would have paved the way for the formation of a new government.
Under last month's power-sharing agreement, Mugabe is entitled to 15 ministries, Tsvangirai 13, and the leader of the smaller MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara, three. Mugabe is allowed eight deputy ministers, Tsvangirai six and Mutambara two. However, there is no agreement on which portfolios go to which party. There is also a dispute over the sharing of the 10 posts of provincial governors now held by Zanu (PF). Mugabe's party is also demanding revision of the agreement signed on September 15 to remove a clause which says if any of the parties lose an MP, they would not contest by-elections against each other. MDC negotiators said they were "poles apart" from their Zanu (PF) counterparts and did want to "waste time talking".
MDC negotiator Tendai Biti confirmed the meeting broke down because "we were worlds apart". "Zanu (PF) came into the meeting with an arrogant and contemptuous attitude." Biti said the allocation of all 31 ministries had not yet been resolved. He said that in view of the "interminable deadlock", Mbeki needed to help resolve the issue. Zanu (PF) negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said the party did not see the need for Mbeki to intervene yet.
(Business Day, Johannesburg)