MDC leader threatens to abandon Zim negotiations

Harare - Morgan Tsvangirai is threatening to walk away from the Harare negotiating table if he is offered anything short of the role of prime minister with full executive powers.

 MDC insiders say the issue of executive power will either make or break Sunday’s meeting when their leader meets Robert Mugabe in an attempt to reach a final agreement. Initially scheduled for yesterday, the encounter was postponed when it was agreed by the two men, and their chief facilitator Thabo Mbeki, that broader consultation was required. On Wednesday, reports Boyd Webb, Mbeki was still confident that a deal would be reached by the weekend. He reportedly told his senior ministers during their fortnightly meeting that discussions were progressing smoothly. “The parties are expected to sign the agreement very soon, possibly even by the weekend,” the source said. The outstanding issues, according to the MDC, include not only who holds executive power, but also the duration of a transitional government, the number of ministries that will comprise that government as well as the distribution of those ministries.

However, without the offer of executive prime minister for Tsvangirai, his party is adamant that all the other issues fall away and the talks will instantly collapse. “Morgan will not accept anything short of full executive power,” Independent Newspapers was told last night. “Otherwise you will be looking at two centres of power and that is simply not an option. With the mandate of his party, he will walk away.” Yet Zanu PF insiders and sympathisers insist that Mugabe is not about to step aside anytime soon to make way for his rival. His spokesman, George Charamba, yesterday refuted claims that the Zanu PF leader had agreed in principle to accept the role of ceremonial president. However the MDC says the two men have reached an understanding, in principle, about who will hold executive power in the new Zimbabwe. As the negotiators from both parties, as well as those from the Arthur Mutambara faction of the MDC, returned to Harare last night, Mbeki was left with the unenviable challenge of trying to mediate between the three. Zanu PF is pushing for a five-year government, while the MDC is insisting on a two year transitional period, arguing that anything longer legitimises the current regime. Tsvangirai’s team is also negotiating for a government of 22 ministries, while Zanu PF is pushing for at least 30.


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