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Zimbabwe Unity Talks Collapse

  • Peta Thornycroft

Power-sharing talks in Zimbabwe between the opposition and President Robert Mugabe ended without a deal on Monday. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, called it the "darkest day of our lives". Mr. Mugabe blamed Mr. Tsvangirai for blocking compromise proposals to break the deadlock.

A new Southern African Development Community, or SADC, summit is expected on January 26 to see whether a resolution can be found.

The talks on Monday were billed as a last ditch attempt to form a unity government by Zimbabwe's state press. The negotiations followed several previous sessions, which also deadlocked over the allocation of key Cabinet posts, keeping a unity government from taking office.

A political agreement was signed by Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Tsvangirai and minority opposition leader Arthur Mutambara in September.

SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao said the talks had been "inconclusive" and announced that the next SADC summit on Zimbabwe would be held in either South Africa or Botswana.

The Harare talks were chaired by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe who had one-on-one discussions with all three leaders before opening up negotiations to the rest of the SADC group.

One of the main items on the Harare agenda was the detention of about 30 mainly MDC officials who were taken from their homes after the September political agreement was signed.

Zimbabwe's economy is in free fall and the country is in the grip of a cholera epidemic that has claimed more than 2,200 lives since August, while most government health workers remain on strike.

The opening of schools has been delayed for the first time since the country won independence from Britain in 1980. Public servants, including the army, say they want to be paid in foreign currency because hyperinflaton has made the Zimbabwe dollar worthless.


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