October 27, 2009 / 12:36 PM / 10 years ago

Tsvangirai party pins Zimbabwe hopes on SADC

HARARE (Reuters) - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party hopes Zimbabwe’s neighbors will this week break a deadlock threatening its power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe, a top party official said on Tuesday.

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), addresses a news conference at his party's office in the capital Harare, October 16, 2009. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Tsvangirai and Mugabe formed a power-sharing government in February to try to end a decade-long crisis, but are still fighting a low-intensity political battle ahead of an expected democratic election in about two years.

Their fragile coalition lurched into a crisis earlier this month when the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it would stop attending cabinet meetings in protest against the arrest of one of its senior officials and Mugabe’s refusal fully to implement the power-sharing pact.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said a mediation team from the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) visiting Harare on Thursday had an obligation to push Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party to honor all aspects of the agreement.

The crisis deepened on Monday after a stalemate at the first meeting between Mugabe and Tsvangirai since the MDC started boycotting the unity government on October 16.

“We are hoping that the troika will, in some way, thaw the impasse. It is our expectation that we will be helped by our guarantors,” Chamisa said at a news conference.

“If the meeting fails to break the deadlock, we hope there will be a full summit. If that fails, then the only option will be a free and fair election under international supervision.”

Chamisa said the MDC and ZANU-PF were “poles apart” on the appointment of some senior government officials, including provincial governors, the attorney-general and head of the central bank, and on media and constitutional reforms.

ZANU-PF had no respect for the rule of law, and its supporters were still invading white-owned commercial farms, he said.

Chamisa said ZANU-PF militants had also embarked on an intimidation campaign against MDC structures. One party worker told the conference armed men had tried but failed to kidnap her in central Harare on Tuesday.

“In our own forensic audit, we have only implemented a quarter of the global political agreement...and there is a danger that ZANU-PF may want to reverse some of the progress that we have achieved,” Chamisa said.

A coalition of local rights groups said on Tuesday they would boycott a government meeting on the justice system later this week in protest over “selective prosecutions” and the harassment of rights activists.

Political analysts say although the government coalition has been shaken by the MDC boycott, a complete collapse still looks unlikely because both parties have no viable alternative at the moment.

Mugabe has shrugged off the former opposition’s boycott of the unity government, saying he has fulfilled the power-sharing deal and would not yield to pressure to make concessions.

The veteran president, 85 and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, says the MDC must campaign for the removal of Western sanctions against his ZANU-PF and for an end to a propaganda campaign by MDC supporters abroad.

Reporting by Cris Chinaka

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