Zimbabwe's Mugabe helps himself to main cabinet portfolios
Attempts to settle Zimbabwe's political crisis appeared to be shattered Saturday after President Robert Mugabe allocated all the incoming power-sharing government's critical portfolios to his Zanu-PF party, reported dpa.
The move was denounced immediately by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party with whom Mugabe has been deadlocked over cabinet posts for nearly a month, as "unilateral."
The announcement in the state-controlled daily Herald came the morning after Mugabe, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, head of a small offshoot of the MDC, broke up on Friday after failing to agree.
The three called for former South African president Thabo Mbeki, the mediator in power-sharing talks between the three, to help break the nearly month-long impasse over portfolios.
The Herald said the allocation of all 31 portfolios established in terms of the power-sharing agreement the three signed on September 15 had been formally gazetted on Friday, and that the appointments had been made "in consultation" with Tsvangirai, as prime minister designate.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa denied the assertion. He described Mugabe's action as "a giant act of madness which puts the power-sharing deal in jeopardy."
He said the octogenarian president had "allocated ministries barely hours after the three principals (Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara) had agreed to disagree by referring the matter to the mediator (Mbeki) after a logjam over all the ministries."
Among the 15 ministries he allocated to Zanu-PF were defence, home affairs (which includes the police), foreign affairs, justice, local government and information - which analysts say are all crucial maintaining to political power.
Except for defence, the MDC has been demanding most of the list for itself. The retention of defence and home affairs means that Mugabe would control all branches of the security services.
Chamisa called on the international community, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, the regional political bloc, to "protect Zimbabweans against the galloping power appetite of the minority Zanu-PF leadership."
The deadlock over the sharing of ministries has held up the implementation of an "inclusive" transitional government meant to last for 18 months, since immediately after the agreement was signed.
Observers say that the country is effectively without a government and that it is accelerating the severe crises of famine, an economic crash and the collapse of infrastructure that have followed Mugabe's unbroken 28 years in parliament.
The MDC won a parliamentary majority and the most votes in the simultaneous presidential election in March, but not enough ballots for pro-democracy leader Tsvangirai to be declared outright winner.
The subsequent run-off presidential poll was preceded by a campaign of savage brutality carried out by Mugabe's security forces and Zanu-PF militias, with about 130 MDC supporters murdered and thousands maimed and made homeless. Tsvangirai withdrew from the poll and the result - a one-man race which declared Mugabe the winner - was denounced by the rest of the world.
"The MDC did not append its signature to a Zanu-PF power-grabbing deal, but to a power-sharing deal," said Chamisa. "We derive our legitimacy from the people of Zimbabwe, not from Zanu-PF who were rejected by the very same people on March 29."