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Mbeki Mediates New Zimbabwe Talks

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has held long, one-on-one talks with Zimbabwe's main political players, in Harare. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Zimbabwe's capital, the negotiations are an attempt to break a deadlock over the distribution of Cabinet positions under a power-sharing agreement.

The talks are taking place at a city hotel, the venue for much of the negotiations in August and September, which saw some sessions going through the night before the power-sharing agreement was signed.

Since then there has been little progress in establishing a government of national unity, and the deal is on the point of collapse.

Mr. Mbeki met with President Robert Mugabe, prime minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai, and the leader of the minority faction of the Movement for Democratic Change Arthur Mutambara.

On the opposite side of town, parliament reconvened and it was packed with legislators from all political parties. Legislators in Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change have a slim majority in parliament and loudly condemned Mr. Mugabe's parliamentary opening address last month.

For the first time in Zimbabwe's history, Zanu PF does not control parliament and the first MDC speaker of parliament is in control and allowed heavy and loud criticism of Mr. Mugabe to fill the chamber.

Earlier, the six power-sharing negotiators, two each from ZANU-PF and the two MDC factions held discussions among themselves before Mr. Mbeki called in the principals.

During the weekend, President Mugabe issued a list of Cabinet positions he said had been negotiated. But Mr. Tsvangirai reacted by threatening to quit negotiations, pushing the agreement to the point of collapse.

Mr. Mugabe had given all the security ministries to his ZANU-PF party, but Mr. Tsvangirai had a majority of the social ministries, such as Health ad Education.

The Cabinet talks are stalled mainly over the Home Affairs Ministry, which controls the police, and Local Government, Foreign Affairs and Finance ministries.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe dollar has again plummeted in value and queues of people trying to get their money out of the banks continue. Most of the population is only eating one meal a day, and hundreds of thousands of children under five are dangerously malnourished according to non-governmental organizations.