Tsvangirai takes Zimbabwe power talks to the brink

Opposition leader threatens to walk away from a deal as President Mugabe refuses to hand over majority control

President Robert Mugabe is due to come face to face with his main rival in talks that could see the Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, appointed as prime minister in a coalition government.

It follows the arrival of the South African President Thabo Mbeki in Harare yesterday, where he is mediating between Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democrat Change (MDC). "We anticipate that there could be a signing after the leaders have met to thrash out the remaining issues," one ruling party official told Reuters last night.

While Mr Mbeki has insisted on negotiations being conducted in private, there is growing optimism that behind the scenes an agreement can be reached – with suggestions that Mr Mugabe will keep the title of President, but for the first time surrender some of his executive powers.

But while Mr Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, described the discussions as a "milestone", it remains unlikely that the President will cede majority control. It is a sticking point that led Mr Tsvangirai's allies to warn he could yet walk away from the negotiating table.

"With Mugabe holding 100 per cent of executive power as it stands, it must now be decided what percentage of powers Tsvangirai will get," a member of the talks said.

Sceptics point to the bloody campaign of late June that ensured Mr Mugabe's victory in the disputed one-man presidential run-off. "He didn't kill over 300 people and terrorise the nation only to give it away for nothing to this man after two weeks of talks," said an unnamed Harare-based commentator.

The MDC has warned that Mr Tsvangirai "will walk away, with the mandate of his party, if he is offered anything short of full executive power". Should Mr Tsvangirai take such a decision, Mr Mugabe is likely immediately to form a government without him, banishing Mr Tsvangirai to the political wilderness for the next five years.

But if Mr Tsvangirai enters Mr Mugabe's government as a junior partner, he will make things difficult for the international donor community, which has said on repeated occasions that it will fund only a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe. With the donor community his trump card – international aid is critical to the bankrupt country – Mr Tsvangirai could choose to sit tight and let the talks stall, rather than break off or see his party subsumed in government. Even then, Mr Mugabe could still insist on the need to form an administration, given that Zimbabwe has been without one for over five months.

Talks had already broken down once, before they resumed last Sunday. The MDC has negotiated for a 30-month transitional government, but Zanu-PF wants it to run for the full five-year term.

"Does it make sense to insist you will only agree to marriage if the certificate includes the date of eventual divorce?" Mr Charamba wrote in yesterday's The Herald.

The parties are also divided on the size of the future coalition, with the MDC pushing for 22 ministries while Zanu-PF demands 38. The talks began on Friday before Mr Mbeki's arrival. He began a round of talks with each party leader before their joint session. Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a breakaway MDC faction, has also been invited to participate.

Mr Mbeki is under pressure to show results before he hosts a Southern African Development Community summit later this month. The SADC appointed him to find a solution to a crisis that is undermining regional security. Zimbabwe's economic meltdown has added urgency to the search for a settlement. On Friday, Western nations urged the lifting of restrictions on the activities of aid agencies in Zimbabwe imposed on 4 June after the government accused them of favouring opposition supporters in the distribution of food aid.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'