Historic handshake offers hope of power-sharing in Zimbabwe

 

Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, and his opposition rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, have given themselves a fortnight to reach a deal to resolve Zimbabwe's political crisis. The pair briefly put aside bitter personal enmities yesterday to sign a memorandum of understanding that launched formal talks with a two-week deadline to achieve some form of power-sharing agreement.

While the deal marks a milestone in the history of the impoverished African nation it remains unclear what can be done to bridge the gulf between the two sides in such a short time frame.

The language of the document was sufficiently opaque to give little indication of how a settlement might be reached. It said Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Mugabe "have an obligation" to establish a framework of "working together in an inclusive government". The document was signed at a Harare hotel in the presence of South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, who has acted as Mr Mugabe's political shield, deflecting a chorus of international criticism of the 84-year-old leader.

The agreement, which comes nearly three months after Zimbabwe's disputed presidential election, calls for an immediate halt to the violence in which more than 120 opposition supporters have been killed and thousands more injured.

Any progress in the talks, which Mr Mbeki will mediate, will require unprecedented compromises from both sides. And judging by their respective positions going into the dialogue expected to start tomorrow, the gap between Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF Party and Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) appears unbridgeable.

The opposition leader, who beat his rival by a clear margin in the March poll, will settle for nothing below an executive prime minister's post with powers to appoint the cabinet and overhaul Mr Mugabe's "insane" economic and political policies, an MDC source told The Independent.

MDC officials said Mr Tsvangirai, a former union leader, would want to take executive power in a "government of national healing" instead of the national unity administration preferred by Mr Mugabe. The transitional authority would allow a period of recovery during which new economic policies could be introduced to ease the crisis gripping the country, introduce a new constitution and overhaul electoral institutions infected by cronyism.

Mr Mugabe, on other other hand, wants to retain the post of executive President and be recognised as head of state until the expiry of his five-year term after his victory in the 27 June run-off election, which was boycotted by his rival and dismissed by African observers as a sham.

The veteran President predictably prefers to amend the current constitution, which vests him with powers of an absolute monarch, rather than the creation of a new one.

Mr Tsvangirai concedes that amendments to the constitution are required to create the position that he wants to assume in government, but he regards such amendments as a temporary measure only, pending the writing of a new constitution.

Mr Mugabe wants to allocate a "senior role" in government to the man who beat him by six points three months ago, but not to make him prime minister. This option would hand Mr Tsvangirai "senior ministerial" role where he would oversee some but not all ministerial portfolios.

Mr Mugabe's supporters in the military – who have wielded considerable power during the terror campaign against the opposition – are also said to be fiercely opposed to making the opposition leader a prime minister with executive powers.

Mike Davies, an Africa analyst with the Eurasia Group consultancy, said the differences between the two parties were so entrenched that it was difficult to see how they could be overcome.

Mr Mugabe said the framework will "chart a new way" for the troubled country. But the long-time leader, who has accused his rival of being a puppet controlled by the West, urged negotiators to resist influence from Europe and the United States. He called on all involved to be "masters of our own destiny".

If the dialogue does not bear fruit, largely due to Mr Mugabe's intransigence in giving up power, then Britain and America's call for tougher sanctions is likely to come back louder and stronger.

How many Zim dollars to the pound?

A: 1,000,000,000,000

The Zimbabwean dollar yesterday hit a new low, with the exchange rate reaching one trillion to the US dollar.

The next significant milestones would be a quadrillion (15 zeros), and then aquintillion (18).

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
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
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: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?