Mbeki expected in Harare today

JOHANNESBURG - South African President Thabo Mbeki is expected in Harare on Monday to try once more to have President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai conclude a power-sharing deal.

Mbeki, the official Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis, was initially scheduled to travel to Harare last Thursday but could not do so after reports that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was away.

Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Information, Bright Matonga confirmed the South African leader was due in Harare on Monday. He said: “We are expecting him anytime but I cannot tell when exactly but our chief negotiator Minister Chinamasa will know better.”

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was however not available for comment as his mobile phone continuously went unanswered.

The spokesman for Tsvangirai’s MDC party said the opposition was ready to meet Mbeki despite openly expressing dissatisfaction with the mediation process.

“We are prepared to meet him if he comes,” MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

Mbeki has been for the past three months shuttling between Pretoria and Harare trying to patch up a deal that could see Zimbabwe’s two main political rivals working together in a government of national unity.

Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a breakaway faction of the MDC, have reportedly appended their signatures to the deal but Tsvangirai has refused to sign the document arguing that it leaves Mugabe with all the executive powers.

The MDC leader on Sunday told party members gathered in Gweru to celebrate its ninth anniversary that he would not put his signature on the draft deal brokered by Mbeki and endorsed by the SADC as long as it gave all executive powers to Mugabe.

Under the draft deal, Tsvangirai – who beat Mugabe in a March poll but fell short of enough votes to avoid a June run-off vote – would virtually be a ceremonial prime minister supposedly in charge of government policy but without power to hire or fire government ministers. He would also not chair Cabinet meetings.

While both Mugabe and Tsvangirai appear unwilling to climb down on their demands, analysts say both leaders were under growing pressure from African leaders and the international community at large to hammer out a compromise deal that could pave way for resolution of one of Africa’s worst crises.

In addition to hyperinflation, Zimbabwe is also in the grips of severe shortages of foreign currency, food, fuel, water, and electricity amid growing record unemployment that have driven millions over borders and strained regional economies.  – ZimOnline

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