US withdraws support for Zimbabwe power-sharing deal

The United States effectively withdrew support for Zimbabwe’s stalled power-sharing deal today, as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change warned that it would boycott another sham election.

Jendayi Frazer, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters in Pretoria that Washington had become convinced that the embattled president, Robert Mugabe was not interested in sharing power.

To allow him to continue as president in a unity government would leave "a man who’s lost it, who’s losing his mind, who’s out of touch with reality" in power, she said after talks with regional leaders. Washington – and Britain – had signalled a readiness to step in with a major aid package once a unity government is operational. "We’re not prepared to do any of that now," Ms Frazer said, citing the abductions in Zimbabwe, the deteriorating humanitarian and economic situation and the cholera epidemic.

The talks between the MDC and the ruling Zanu-PF party have bogged down over key ministries, and Mr Mugabe has warned his party to be ready for new elections after failing to push the opposition into a junior role in a unity government.

The Zimbabwean opposition said it would boycott any fresh elections in the New Year, unless there is an overhaul of the constitution and a strong presence from international observers.

The MDC will not take part in “another Mugabe managed election farce,” said party spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

“We welcome and are ready and prepared for free and fair elections,” said Mr Chamisa. “We would be ready to deliver another election blow to them like we did in March,” where the party won more seats than Zanu PF and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mr Mugabe by six percentage points in the presidential poll.

However, he said that if a new vote was simply a rerun of “June chaos” where the second round was blighted by violence against opposition supporters, then: “the participation of the MDC cannot be definite.”

It remains unclear what the government’s next move will be.

The ruling party conference concluded this weekend with calls for Mr Mugabe to unilaterally form a new government without the MDC, although this would be illegal under the constitution.

Ms Frazer said that if Mr Mugabe’s neighbours were to unite and "go to Mugabe and tell him to go, I do think he would go," she said. But South Africa today continued to insist that the best way forward is through a unity government.

There has been no legitimate government in Zimbabwe since elections in March, where the ruling party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time.

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