Although deal was clinched last week, tough negotiations are reportedly still under way on forming a cabinet that will bring together Zimbabwean ruling Zanu-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
According to Mr Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga, deal is, “very close to president Mbeki’s heart.”
A decision on whether Mr Mbeki continues as mediator rests with Southern African Development Community (SADC), a 14-nation group that selected him last year. Mr Mbeki recently became the head of the group, a position he is also relinquishing to his successor.
Deal is meant to end eight years of political crisis that has brought once-prosperous country to its economic knees, with 80% of population now living in poverty made worse by world’s highest inflation rate at 11,2-million percent.
An alliance of civic groups, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, reportedly said that Mr Mbeki’s resignation came at “a fragile time”, with cabinet list not finalised.
“Considering that Mr Mbeki was sole mediator in Zimbabwe agreement, Zimbabweans are now asking what future of country holds. Zimbabweans from all walks of life were banking on settlement to rescue country from socio-economic and political abyss it is entrenched in,” coalition said in a statement.
MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa insisted that Mr Mbeki’s departure, effective from tomorrow, would not spell disaster for Zimbabwe deal.
“There is no danger posed to agreement by president Mbeki’s departure. SADC is guarantor of deal. In event that we encounter any impediments, we have recourse by way of approaching SADC and African Union (AU),” said Mr Chamisa.
SADC is said to have already urged Mr Mbeki to stay on as its official mediator in Zimbabwe.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), which forced Mr Mbeki to resign at weekend, has also asked him to keep working on Zimbabwe deal.
So far Mr Mbeki has not announced if he will continue as mediator.
Analysts said that while Zimbabwe deal was not in danger of falling apart, implementing pact could prove difficult without pressure from Mr Mbeki.
Terms of agreement allow president Robert Mugabe to appoint a cabinet if his ruling Zanu-PF and two factions of MDC fail to agree on its make-up, political analyst Lovemore Madhuku said.
“Mr Mbeki will not be able to fly to Harare like he has been able to. It gives Mr Mugabe more room to proceed with implementing terms of deal if there is no agreement on allocation of cabinet ministries,” he said.
Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed deal on 15 September, after months of tough negotiations, following international condemnation of presidential elections marred by deadly violence against opposition supporters.
Zanu-PF lost its parliamentary majority for first time to Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC in March elections, while Mr Mugabe failed to win presidential elections outright.
Mr Tsvangirai is now set to become prime minister in new government, but his party’s two factions are still haggling with Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF over key ministerial posts.
Entire deal is also reportedly clouded by doubts over whether bitter rivals will be able to work together to salvage country’s economy.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said that even if Mr Mbeki kept up his mediation, his authority to press parties into agreement would now be more limited.
“He would have had more weight as head of state. He can no longer put pressure on Mr Mugabe, which he managed to do as head of state,” Mr Mangongera said.
John Makumbe, a political scientist at University of Zimbabwe, said power-sharing might collapse without Mr Mbeki.
“He was able to apply pressure here and there and get them to sign agreement. Without him I think each group is going to stick to its guns and that would be unhealthy, the whole agreement could remain strictly on paper,” Mr Makumbe said.