|A "HISTORIC MILESTONE" The agreement is an indication from President Robert Mugabe (left) that his party no longer draws the support it once enjoyed.|
Proposed Zimbabwe deal signals power shift
Secrecy, tensions ahead of signing
HARARE, Zimbabwe - On paper - and it's a paper he has yet to sign or even publicly admit exists - President Robert Mugabe appears to be acknowledging he cannot rule Zimbabwe alone.
Mugabe, Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, and a leader of a smaller opposition faction were to sign a power-sharing deal today that has resulted from weeks of negotiations mediated by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.
Mbeki and Morgan Tsvangirai, the main opposition leader, announced a deal late Thursday. They gave no details, saying the agreement would be made public today. Opposition members first gave the broad outlines Friday, and media controlled by Mugabe confirmed their version yesterday.
Even the time of today's ceremony had not been released by last night, but South African officials said Mbeki was to attend with his Foreign Affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Sydney Mufamadi, a Cabinet minister who led the mediation effort.
"The South African government has noted that while this is cause for celebrations, we remain all too aware that this historic milestone constitutes but the end of the beginning," the South African government said in a statement yesterday.
According to Zimbabwean state radio yesterday and the opposition members earlier, the agreement to be signed today calls for a Cabinet with 31 members; 16 from the opposition and 15 from Mugabe's party. It is an acknowledgment from Mugabe - accused of holding onto power through violence and fraud and ruining the economy - that his party no longer draws the support it once enjoyed from Zimbabweans. But opposition members who wanted Mugabe to surrender power completely have complained the deal does not go far enough, and creates a complicated arrangement Mugabe could exploit, especially given the tension that exists between the two opposition factions.
Mugabe, 84, and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, and Tsvangirai, 56, are seen to have been forced into the deal by economic pressures. Zimbabwe has by far the world's highest official inflation of 11 million percent. Independent financial institutions put real inflation closer to 40 million percent and rising daily.
Mugabe has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980. He will remain president and is to chair the Cabinet, with Tsvangirai as vice chair. Tsvangirai is to head a new Council of Ministers that will supervise the work of the Cabinet.
Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the opposition have begun discussing the appointments before today's ceremony. The opposition has demanded control of the police while agreeing to allow Mugabe to retain control of the military.
Both the police and military have been blamed for state-orchestrated violence and torture of Mugabe's opponents.
Mugabe's ZANU-PF, Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and the smaller opposition grouping of Arthur Mutambara met in Harare on Saturday to work on Cabinet appointments before a meeting of Mugabe's politburo, his party's top policy body, the radio said.
The 30-member politburo endorsed the power-sharing agreement that was announced Thursday, state radio said yesterday. Mugabe has yet to comment.
Although Tsvangirai "does not have absolute power he does have substantial power," lawyer David Coltart, an opposition lawmaker, said to his supporters Friday. "This is undoubtedly historic but we still have a long and treacherous road to travel."
Virtually all of the Cabinet ministers to be appointed by the opposition "have at some stage in the last nine years been brutalized on the instructions of those they will now have to work with," Coltart said.
"Zimbabwe remains highly polarized and it will take statesmanship on all sides to make this work," Coltart said.
Long-simmering and bitter differences between the two sides and the nation's worsening economic collapse are expected to put the power-sharing deal under massive pressure.