African leaders start Zimbabwe summit

Southern African leaders opened a regional summit on Zimbabwe in South Africa on Sunday, hoping to break a deadlock over the allocation of cabinet posts which has prevented formation of a power-sharing government.

The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting is trying to end the impasse between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and put into effect a power-sharing deal reached in September.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said in opening remarks that the agreement signed by Zimbabwe's political rivals was the only hope for the country to revive its collapsed economy.

"The historical agreement signed on the 15th of September is the only vehicle to help Zimbabweans (with) their economic challenges," Motlanthe told the summit.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai were both attending the summit.

Motlanthe said there was some disappointment that the Zimbabwean parties had not agreed how to allocate cabinet posts.

"We hope the parties will show political maturity by putting the interest of the people of Zimbabwe first," he said.

Past meetings of regional heads of state have failed to produce a breakthrough and there were new signs that the parties may face another round of difficult negotiations.

Tsvangirai's MDC said last week that Mugabe's ZANU-PF party had put a "full stop" to negotiations on forming a government by carrying out what it said was widespread violence.

Zimbabwean state media reported on Sunday that Mugabe's government would not change its stance on key positions in a power-sharing cabinet and the opposition should accept joint control of the interior ministry.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the state-run Sunday Mail the deadlock would end only if Tsvangirai agreed to joint control of the ministry, which oversees the police.

"The proposals are on the table and the ball is in Tsvangirai's court," Chinamasa said.

"We want to make it clear that this proposal, which ZANU-PF accepted as a compromise, was originated by Tsvangirai himself."

Tsvangirai, who would become prime minister under the power-sharing deal, has accused ZANU-PF of trying to seize the lion's share of important ministries and relegating the MDC to the role of junior partner.

South Africa's government has said it will take a tough stand at the summit - a sharp change from the style of former President Thabo Mbeki, the official mediator whose policy of quiet diplomacy was criticised as ineffective.

It is not clear what practical steps the SADC could take to force an agreement on the two rivals.

Zimbabwe's economic crisis has forced millions of its citizens to flee the country, an estimated three million of them moving to neighbouring South Africa alone.

Ties between Zimbabwe and neighbouring Botswana have also become strained after Botswanan President Seretse Khama Ian Khama said a new election was the only solution to the crisis.

Establishing a unity government is seen as critical to reversing economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, where inflation is officially 231 million percent. Even under government price controls, the cost of bread is doubling every week.

Zimbabweans are struggling to survive amid widespread shortages of meat, milk and other basic commodities as a result of the collapse of the agricultural sector. The country is dependent on food handouts and malnutrition is on the rise.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable