ZANU PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) negotiators are inching closer to a power-sharing agreement expected to be finalised next week after an intensive round of delicate negotiations.
Informed sources said the talks â€” officially expected to end on Monday although the deadline looks set to be extended â€” are taking shape fast and edging towards a deal.
The parties are agreed on almost everything on the agenda except details on the structure of the new government. This includes positions and powers for key leaders, as well as transitional and implementation mechanisms.
While there is no deadlock on the issue, heated debate and consultations are underway on what roles President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai should play in the new government. Tsvangirai only hinted at some “sticking points”.
Yesterday Tsvangirai said he was “fairly satisfied” with the talks.
“I am fairly satisfied, but there are, like in any negotiations, sticking points that need to be unravelled,” Tsvangirai told reporters in Dakar after meeting Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade.
South African President Thabo Mbeki this week met Tsvangirai, Mugabe, and the other MDC faction leader, Arthur Mutambara, to brief them on the talks so far. Mugabe and Mbeki have also said the talks are progressing well.
Regional leaders were expected to meet today in Luanda to discuss the Zimbabwe situation but there were doubts whether the meeting would take place.
Talks between Zanu PF and the MDC resume on Sunday, a day before the deadline, likely to be extended until the end of next week.
“Two weeks may appear too short, but it is not inflexible and I am sure that the facilitation will adjust as progress moves forward,” Tsvangirai said.
It was becoming increasingly likely, sources said, that Tsvangirai would become prime minister in the end, while Mugabe remains president in a power-sharing pact.
Sources said if Tsvangirai had sealed a coalition deal with the MDC camp led by Mutambara to take control of parliament in an unassailable way, he would have been almost guaranteed the post of premier â€” head of government â€” without problems, with Mugabe remaining as ceremonial head of state.
However, this was not done despite a coalition agreement after the March 29 elections and thus parliament remains hung.
The sources said Tsvangiraiâ€™s group had initially proposed that the opposition chief should become prime minister with two deputies, one from his party and the other from Zanu PF, while Mugabe becomes non-executive president. The MDC wants a two-year transitional period and new elections thereafter.
However, Mugabe and his party are not amenable to this because they want him to remain as executive president over a five-year period.
The Zanu PF politburo met last week and resolved that Mugabeâ€™s position was â€œnon-negotiableâ€, reflecting the attitude of party hardliners and the Joint Operations Command (JOC) that brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs.
Sources said Mugabeâ€™s diehards in the party and JOC do not want a deal which gives some power to Tsvangirai, but Mugabe has told them concessions are necessary and inevitable.
Negotiators say despite protests from hardliners nothing was considered out of bounds at the talks.
Sources said there was a chance Mugabe could be a non-executive head of state as he was no longer rigidly opposed to this now as he was at the start.
It was even probable Tsvangirai could be the president either now or later down the line, they say.
â€œDonâ€™t rule out anything. Tsvangirai can be a prime minister or even a president.
Itâ€™s a fluid situation; donâ€™t rule out anything because you will be surprised,â€ a senior official close to the talks said.Â
â€œThere are different models and variations which were proposed. Debate and negotiations are on the hybrid model which should be adopted.
The deliberations on these issues are intense, but there are no disagreements or deadlock on anything. Itâ€™s about finding the middle ground.â€
Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai â€” these days speaking the language of compromise â€” said this week the talks were a give-and-take situation.
Mugabe said he wanted a â€œspeedy conclusionâ€ to the negotiations that he understood were going on well.
â€œI understand the talks are going on well,â€ Mugabe said. â€œWe are still negotiating, we want to succeed, negotiations are negotiations of course, they are different from gambling.
â€œYou find room for compromise, sometimes compromise is difficult and you stand by your proposals as presented. You debate again and again and reach a compromise.â€ He said there would be â€œno winner or loserâ€ in the end.
Tsvangirai said on Wednesday he could not say what role Mugabe and himself would play in the new government because this was still being negotiated.
â€œThe role of Robert Mugabe and the role of Morgan Tsvangirai in the envisaged co-sharing government will have to be discussed by the negotiating parties. I am not in any position of defining what his role would be,â€ Tsvangirai told Britainâ€™s Channel 4 News. â€œWhat I would hope is that it will allow him (Mugabe) a process of an honourable exit.â€
By Dumisani Muleya