HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have failed to agree on a power-sharing government after three days of talks in Harare.
South African President Thabo Mbeki said agreement had been reached between Mugabe and breakaway MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara.
Below are some questions and answers on Zimbabwe’s political uncertainty.
It is still unclear. Although Mbeki said agreement had been reached with Mutambara, he was unsure whether anything had been signed. A top official of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party said it had been signed, but a spokesman for Mutambara’s faction of the Movement for Democratic Change denied that.
Political analysts say such an agreement would not end Zimbabwe’s post-election political crisis and is likely to damage confidence further in an economy groaning under the world’s highest inflation rate of 2.2 million percent.
Lack of a unified political leadership could make it even harder to ease chronic food, fuel and foreign currency shortages and rescue a virtually worthless local currency.
Mbeki said he was confident a solution was possible and Tsvangirai was still considering his position. The South African leader said he was willing to stay in Zimbabwe for six months to help reach a settlement.
The magnitude of the divisions may become clearer when Mbeki briefs a weekend summit in South Africa of the regional group of nations SADC, which mandated him to mediate.
Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and MDC negotiators are expected to return to South Africa for secret talks to try to iron out outstanding issues.
WHAT ARE MUGABE‘S PLANS?
Mugabe, in power since 1980, is expected to convene parliament next week, and appoint a cabinet that includes some opposition figures, possibly including some from Tsvangirai’s mainstream MDC.
Mugabe’s aides say the government must continue functioning, but the formation of a new cabinet could scupper or delay further talks with the opposition.
HAS MUGABE‘S DEAL WITH MUTAMBARA WEAKENED TSVANGIRAI?
Tsvangirai’s dominant opposition MDC is expected to press its numerical advantage in parliament, and its members will take up their seats there in order to stop the ruling ZANU-PF from passing legislation that could work against its interests.
Political sources say a unilateral decision by Mutambara to agree a deal with Mugabe could alienated allies in his own MDC faction and that could weaken his internal standing.
The former robotics professor’s 10 parliament seats would give the coalition the majority in parliament that ZANU-PF lost in March elections for the first time since independence, but excluding Tsvangirai is unlikely to heal Zimbabwe’s deep rift.
They are likely to become even more cautious. Foreign investors don’t want to get their cues from the twists and turns of murky negotiations. They are looking for a government that could bring stability and end isolation.
Political analysts say Mugabe has used nationalization of foreign companies as well as the seizure of land as a political weapon.
Despite a redenomination that removed 10 zeroes, the Zimbabwe dollar has tumbled on a thriving black market in the last week and is seen losing further ground against the greenback as the political deadlock drags on.
The opposition might suffer more divisions in its ranks if some of its officials take up posts in a new cabinet without considering if Tsvangirai intends to get on board.
Both SADC and the African Union (AU) are expected to continue piling diplomatic pressure on Mugabe and Tsvangirai to reach a power-sharing agreement. SADC has taken a tougher line with Mugabe but Mbeki has long held the view that pushing the defiant leader too far will only aggravate tensions.
HOW WILL MUGABE‘S WESTERN FOES RESPOND?
If there is no agreement in coming weeks, Western powers, including Britain and the U.S., which have imposed sanctions on Mugabe’s government, may consider more punitive measures against ZANU-PF leaders.
Reporting by Cris Chinaka; editing by Michael Georgy