Zimbabwe's Mugabe: Power-sharing 'humiliation' will be accepted
Thursday, September 18, 2008
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- President Robert Mugabe told his party Wednesday that sharing power with rivals is a "humiliation" but it has to be accepted because they lost the March elections.
Mugabe was shown on state television addressing a meeting of top ZANU-PF party leaders called to prepare for dividing the Cabinet with two opposition factions as stipulated in a deal signed Monday. Mugabe loyalists will lose Cabinet seats to make room for the opposition.
"If only we had not blundered in the March ... elections we wouldn't be facing this humiliation," he said. "This is what we have to deal with."
While Mugabe's assessment was hardly gracious, it was an indication he would not abandon the accord, and should help calm fears his agreement to cede some power for the first time in 28 years might founder.
Long-simmering political differences and Zimbabwe's economic collapse loom over the Cabinet negotiations and some people have worried the parties aren't moving fast enough to implement the deal. A resurgence of violence, though, seems unlikely.
Mugabe aide Patrick Chinamasa told state TV that the three parties involved would meet Thursday and could have a Cabinet by the end of the day. The meeting on allotting Cabinet posts had been expected Tuesday, but was delayed while Mugabe's party met on its own.
Earlier Wednesday, state media quoted Chinamasa as saying key aspects of the power-sharing deal would not go into effect until next month.
The constitution needs to be changed to create the post of prime minister, which is to be filled by Mugabe's main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, who got the most votes in the first round of presidential balloting last March. Under the power-sharing deal, Mugabe remains president.
Amendments to make the necessary changes will be presented to parliament when it convenes next month, Chinamasa told the government-controlled Herald newspaper. He said there would be no move to open parliament before Oct. 14 as originally planned.
It was unclear when the new government would be sworn in. Tsvangirai and the Cabinet might begin work without a formal swearing in, pending the constitutional amendments.
Mugabe, 84, has been in power since independence in 1980 and went from being praised as a liberator who freed the former British colony from minority white rule to being vilified as an autocrat.
He came in second in the initial presidential voting, but won the run-off ballot in June after Tsvangirai pulled out following weeks of political violence targeting his supporters. But the March election gave the opposition control of parliament for the first time.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai, 56, have been enemies for a decade. Tsvangirai has been jailed, beaten, tortured and tried for treason -- charges that were dismissed in court.
The power-sharing deal has been criticized privately by some members of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, who are unhappy it leaves Mugabe as president and head of the government. They fear Mugabe will exploit that, playing on tensions between the two opposition blocs.
The agreement provides for 31 ministers -- 15 from Mugabe's party, 13 from Tsvangirai's and three from an opposition faction led by Arthur Mutambara.
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, said the delay in forming a new government are worrying.
"Clearly there is anxiety in the country," Chamisa told The Associated Press. "People would want to see movement in terms of the realization of the actual deal. As the MDC, we want to urgently respond to the desperate and dire situation Zimbabweans find themselves in."
But George Charamba, Mugabe's spokesman, told the AP there was no cause for worry. He said he was spending Wednesday at his farm outside Harare while Mugabe addressed the meeting of top party officials.
"If I was worried, I would have been in Harare," he said.
Zimbabwe has the world's highest inflation rate even by the official figure of at 11 million percent, and independent economists put it much higher. Food and other basic goods are scare, and aid agencies say more and more Zimbabweans are going hungry.
The international Red Cross said Wednesday that its trucks would leave warehouses in the main Zimbabwe cities of Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare to deliver corn, beans and cooking oil to 24,000 needy Zimbabweans. More shipments will follow in coming months, it said.
Mugabe's critics say his policies -- including his orders in 2000 that white-owned farms be seized and given to blacks -- led to the economic collapse. Mugabe blames Western sanctions imposed because of his poor human rights record, saying they caused investors and aid agencies to avoid Zimbabwe.