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Zimbabwe Leaders Sign Power-Sharing Deal

  • Scott Bobb

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have signed a power sharing agreement aimed at ending the country's lengthy political crisis. The agreement was reached after weeks of bargaining mediated by South Africa. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

South African President Thabo Mbeki announced late Thursday night that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and leaders of the opposition had agreed to share power in a unity government.

"An agreement has been reached about all of the matters that served on the agenda of those negotiations. There will be a formal signing ceremony on Monday," he said.

Mr. Mbeki said all the leaders had agreed to the accord which was described as signaling a new dawn for the country.

Details are to be announced Monday but sources said that under the agreement, Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party is to hold 15 ministerial portfolios. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai is to receive 13 ministries. And a smaller opposition faction led by Arthur Mutambara is to hold three posts.

Mr. Mugabe is to continue as head-of-state while Tsvangirai is to occupy the newly created post of prime minister. The opposition will also occupy two newly created posts of deputy prime minister.

Reaction in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, was cautious. A man who would not give his name expressed doubts over whether the long-time rivals would be able to govern together.

"We were waiting for quite some time actually for the deal to be successful but I am very skeptical about the outcome of the deal," he said.

One of the estimated three million Zimbabwean refugees who have fled to South Africa, Farai Ndlovu, was more positive.

"That joint venture is very good, what is needed is just to have the consensus relations between these two guys. But otherwise everything will be fine," said Ndlovu.

But fellow Johannesburg immigrant, Archie Tapera, welcomed the accord.

"I think it's a positive thing, one of the major achievements in the history of Zimbabwe," said Tapera.

The agreement ends months of uncertainty after the opposition won a majority in parliamentary elections last March and Tsvangirai defeated Mr. Mugabe in the first round of the presidential vote.

However, Mr. Mugabe won the runoff election after Tsvangirai withdrew citing a campaign of state-sponsored violence in which more than 100 activists were killed.

Leaders hope the unity government will be able to stabilize Zimbabwe's economy, characterized by hyper-inflation and 80 percent unemployment. And they hope it will attract billions of dollars worth of reconstruction aid that have been promised by the international community.

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