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Zimbabwe Cabinet Dispute Handed Back To Accord Negotiators

Discussions on the composition of a Zimbabwean power-sharing government were to be pursued this weekend by the ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change negotiators who hammered out the accord signed early this week by President Robert Mugabe and MDC leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, political sources said.

But the sources said it seemed unlikely the issue would be resolved by the negotiators, some of whom have a direct personal stake in the outcome, and that the allocation of ministries to the parties would have to be decided by the principals to the deal.

President Mugabe conferred on Thursday with Tsvangirai, prime minister designate, and Mutambara, slated to become deputy prime minister, but they failed to agree on which ministries will be headed by ZANU-PF and MDC ministers.

Political tensions as a result were rising: spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation on Friday accused ZANU-PF of wanting to control all key ministries, saying that his former opposition party would not let that happen.

Mr. Mugabe was expected to leave Harare Friday evening for New York and the United Nations General Assembly, so he would be unavailable for direct talks for a week.

National Constitutional Assembly Chairman George Mkwananzi told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the matter should be referred back to South African President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who mediated the power-sharing talks on behalf of the Southern African Development Community.

Though power-sharing has been agreed in principle, it is another thing for the longtime adversaries to allocate ministerial seats – in particular sensitive or economically strategic portfolios like defense, home affairs, finance and agriculture.

For a closer look at the latest deadlock in the power-sharing saga, reporter Patience Rusere turned to political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya and NCA Director Earnest Mudzengi, who said the impasse did not surprise him as he had been skeptical of the power-sharing process from the outset.

Ordinary Zimbabweans remained hopeful power-sharing would lead to a better life.

Despite the past week's hiccup in political discussions, Onayi Kambaranda of Mutare remained optimistic and expected the deal to bolster the economy, saying he has already seen an improvement in the availability of goods in shops.

From Pumulanga, South Africa, Charles Mutambara said he hoped ZANU-PF and the MDC would keep their word so as to enable the country to move forward.

More news from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...