Talks underway

By Chief Reporter

HARARE - Hotel workers were busy arranging chairs and flowers in a room that has been booked by the government where Zimbabwe's political rivals are meeting to put finality to a power-sharing deal.

The room, on the first floor of the Rainbow Towers hotel, was likely to be used by Zimbabwe’s political gladiators, expected to sign a power-sharing deal before the close of day today.

The deal is set to end a bloody confrontation between Zimbabwe’s political rivals sparked by President Mugabe’s clumsily stolen re-election on June 27.

The deal is also expected to heal a deeply divided nation and put back on the path of recovery, an economy wrecked by insane government policies and official theft.

But investors were cautious and wanted guarantees before pouring money into the country where property rights have been trampled with impunity by the Mugabe regime.

President Thabo Mbeki, who has been brokering the deal, met MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai at the Rainbow Towers early today. He later met leader of a breakaway MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara.

He had met Mugabe at the same venue last night, soon after his arrival aboard a South African airforce aircraft on Saturday night.

Details of these meetings remained secretive.

At midday, Mutambara was the first to arrive at the Rainbow Towers, followed by Tsvangirai, then Mugabe.

All the three staunchly declined to give comment to reporters.

But Biti, who was accompanying Tsvangirai said: I think we all need to pray.

Asked if a deal was imminent, he confirmed with a one-word answer, yes.

Impeccable sources have confirmed that Tsvangirai would become prime minister with Mugabe also remaining executive president. Discussions are centering on the amount of power each of the two leaders would wield.

Also under discussion was the term of office of the transitional government, the number of ministries and amnesty for perpetrators of political violence and murders.

It remained unclear how long the talks would last.

But a source said a deal was definitely on today.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai were expected to jointly issue addresses at the Heroes Acre tomorrow at the Heroes Day – a day set aside in honour of Zimbabwe’s fallen heroes during a 16-year liberation struggle that brought independence in 1980.

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