BRAZILIAN President Lula da Silva has dispatched his foreign minister Celso Amorim to Harare in a bid to break the deadlock on the distribution of ministries between President Robert Mugabe and main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The move comes after four consecutive days of negotiations which have failed to crack the impasse on cabinet portfolios.
Amorim was expected in Harare yesterday to hold talks with Mugabe. He was also going to meet Tsvangirai, and the other MDC leader Arthur Mutambara. The Brazilian embassy yesterday confirmed Amorimâ€™s visit.
Sources said this followed a request by mediator, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who is close to Brazilâ€™s da Silva to help out in the talks. Brazil is an emerging power in South-South geopolitics.
Brazil is becoming influential in dialogue between South America and developed countries, especially the United States. It played an important role in negotiations in internal conflicts in Venezuela and Colombia.
Brazil, a huge agricultural economy, is also expected to assist Zimbabwe in reviving its ruined agriculture. South Africa is also trying to do so. Sceptical Western countries and donors have said they would adopt a wait-and-see approach. Â
Amorim will today hold a press conference at the Rainbow Towers Hotel to brief journalists on the matter.
The talks, aimed at sharing key ministries which Mugabe allocated to his party last week, continued in circles in Harare yesterday with Zanu PF giving indications it might cede finance to the opposition MDC but certainly nothing else.
The convoluted negotiations have put a damper on last monthâ€™s hard-to-pin-down power-sharing agreement which gives Mugabe and Zanu PF 15 ministries, Tsvangirai and his party 13 and Mutambara and his group three.
Issues at the centre of the current dispute include:
*Â Â Â Ministries, especially finance and home affairs;
*Â Â Provincial governors, ambassadors and other envoys;
*Â Â Â Ministry permanent secretaries and principal directors;
*Â Â Â Senior civil servants and top government officials; and
*Â Â Â Loopholes in the agreement and 19th amendment to the constitution.
Besides the ministries and governors, the other issues are not part of the latest round of talks and according to sources in both Zanu PF and the MDC they would be dealt with later.
Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara were at the time of going to press yesterday still locked in negotiations, but informed sources said since Tuesday Mugabe had been clinging to what he gazetted last week. He was only prepared let go of finance, which he left unallocated last week.
As reported in the Zimbabwe Independent three weeks ago, Zanu PF had resolved to hold all principal ministries except finance for strategic reasons. They want the MDC to mobilise funds and resources for social and economic reconstruction.
While Mugabe is prepared to discuss only finance and home affairs, the MDC says there are now important 10 ministries in dispute.
Diplomats say they are sceptical about the viability of the agreement that leaves Mugabe in charge as head of state and government. Zanu PF held a secret emergency politburo meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the situation and resolved not to yield.
Sources said Mugabe is under pressure from his army of disgruntled outgoing ministers and senior party officials to adopt an unyielding position to ensure they remain part of the patronage network.
Out of about 64 ministers, deputy ministers and provincial governors who are also resident ministers, Zanu PF is at most likely to retain only 28 if it gives five governorsâ€™ posts to the MDC factions.
Sources said Mugabe is refusing to relinquish home affairs â€“ which is also at the centre of discussions â€“ after seizing all other crucial ministries including defence, justice, foreign affairs, local government, information and mines.
It is said Mugabe offered finance on condition that the MDC agrees with his wresting of other ministries. Sources said he also offered home affairs under pressure on condition it would be rotational after every six months or have co-ministers.
Mugabe reportedly proposed that if the rotational system was unacceptable, there should be two home affairs ministers â€“ one from MDC and the other from Zanu PF.
Departments that fall under the ministry such as the Registrarâ€™s Office,Â Immigration and Police would be shared equally between the parties.
Zanu PF has also been trying to come up with a rotational system on the finance portfolio or appointing two deputies to accommodate the three parties to the agreement in one ministry.
Sources said Zanu PF fears that if the MDC gets finance and operates it unchecked, it would deny Mugabe and his party state funds they need to avoid collapse. They also fear, it is said, the MDC might institute what they call a â€œforensic auditâ€ to find out if government funds have been misappropriated.Â Â
On home affairs, it is understood Mugabe and his party fear the MDC could use the ministry to arrest their officials and supporters for various crimes ranging from corruption to political violence.Â Â
Mugabe has also ensured that State Security is no longer a ministry but a department in his office, retaining all instruments of coercion in his bid to maintain his iron grip on power. The EU on Monday condemned Mugabeâ€™s â€œunilateral decisionâ€ to form a new cabinet and threatened fresh sanctions unless he respects the power-sharing deal.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg slammed what they called â€œthe unilateral decision to form a new government which has not been agreed by all partiesâ€. Â
They said they were â€œready to consider additional measuresâ€ if the deal continues to be blocked.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband described Mugabeâ€™s measure as an â€œattempted power grabâ€.
New French ambassador Laurent Contini, who presented his credentials to Mugabe on Thursday, urged parties to conclude the talks urgently.