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Former South African President Mbeki Expected to Unlock Zimbabwe Impasse

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is expected in Zimbabwe's capital Harare today (Monday) to mediate and resolve the political impasse between the government and the opposition over ministerial posts. The negotiations are aimed at forming a unity government to resolve the country's economic and political crisis. But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) threatened yesterday (Sunday) to pull out of the ongoing negotiations with the ruling ZANU-PF party after President Robert Mugabe awarded top cabinet posts to his party.

Mugabe allocated to his party the ministries of defense and home affairs (in charge of police as well as finance), which are crucial for the resuscitation of the devastated economy. Zimbabwe political analyst George Mkwananzi tells reporter Peter Clottey from South Africa's capital, Pretoria that Zimbabweans are outraged over the impasse after hoping that the power-sharing agreement would end the economic meltdown.

"The fact that this time around Thabo Mbeki has been requested to come back to further supervise and facilitate the discussion in Zimbabwe means that there has been a loss in the previous attempts to put these two parties together to negotiate, which were left unconcluded.And as a result of that, there have not been efforts to put the whole issue to use. So what it means now is that he (Mbeki) has to listen to both sides and attempt to bring both sides together and ensure that this time around, they would be able to put this issue permanently to a conclusion," Mkwananzi pointed out.

He said some Zimbabweans are expressing frustration after President Mugabe allegedly awarded top cabinet positions to his ruling ZANU-PF party, leading to this latest impasse.

"Indeed there is really a cause for concern for the MDC, especially if Mugabe has been exhibiting this level of arrogance whereby he has appropriated all the significant ministerial positions to his party, and has reserved some what I would call chaff ministerial posts for MDC. It would be appreciable for the MDC to withdraw so that the ZANU-PF people can see that they cannot always have it their own way," he said.

Mkwananzi said the main opposition MDC made a mistake by signing an agreement with President Mugabe before negotiations about ministerial positions among others was signed.

"Obviously the latest developments show that there were weaknesses in the initial agreement that they have to sign it without a proper clarification as to what was going to MDC and what was going to ZANU-PF. It amounts to chicanery and MDC appears to like a party that has been cheated on in these negotiations because they have gone as far as appendaging their signature, only to discover that they had not received what they had hoped from the talks," Mkwananzi noted.

He said the ruling party is making life difficult for the opposition in the ongoing political impasse.

"ZANU-PF is now arm-twisting the MDC to accept something which is lopsided and which is to the advantage of ZANU-PF," he said.

Mkwananzi cautioned that President Mugabe's leaving the MDC out of significant cabinet positions contravenes the recently signed agreement with the opposition aimed at resolving the economic and political crisis.

"It must be remembered that the mandate that Robert Mugabe gets as a president comes only after the signing of the agreement. So he is not president, and he is not recognized until and unless he equitably distributes these ministerial positions. So when he attempts to be president before the distribution of these positions, then it cannot be acceptable. It can be taken as illegitimate and illegal," Mkwananzi pointed out.