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).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform