Zimbabwe’s rival political leaders, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, held face-to-face talks in Harare on Sunday aimed at hastening a deal that would see the old foes come together in an uneasy power-sharing government.
By Tom Burgis in Johannesburg
The veteran president and the opposition leader met to hammer out the detail of an agreement for Mr Mugabe to cede executive powers to Mr Tsvangirai in a transitional government preparing for fresh elections.
The talks were held ahead of Monday’s celebrations honouring fighters who died in Zimbabwe’s war of liberation from white rule and a week before regional heads of state gather for a summit in Johannesburg. There is speculation that the bitter rivals will officiate jointly at Monday’s ceremonies, though at least one of Zimbabwe’s neighbours is considering boycotting the summit if Mr Mugabe attends.
Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail, a mouthpiece for Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, had reported that the two sides had reached “a common position” allowing for Mr Mugabe to remain as titular president.
Mr Tsvangirai triumphed in first-round presidential polls in March but withdrew from a run-off against Mr Mugabe amid widespread attacks on supporters of his Movement for Democratic Change. Mr Mugabe proceeded to victory unopposed in a June vote that was condemned by election monitors. Violence has persisted since then and the inflation-battered economy has continued to deteriorate.
Arthur Mutambara, leader of the breakaway faction of the MDC, was also present at the meeting hosted by Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, who is fronting mediation efforts for southern Africa.
In a message prepared for Monday’s celebrations, sent to the Financial Times, Mr Mutambara writes: “We have a national political agreement that seeks to bring all our people together irrespective of party affiliation. This compromise solution . . . with its glaring and attendant limitations, is the best temporary measure.”
Some civil society groups fear, however, that the MDC is paying too high a price for power and risks legitimising those in the Mugabe regime who will retain influence in the settlement. Zanu-PF is expected to keep control of the defence ministry.