Though Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed this week on the composition of electoral, human rights and media commissions, negotiations over the balance of the outstanding issues that have destabilized Zimbabwe’s unity government virtually since its inception have been put on hold until January, political sources said.
Negotiators for the president, prime minister and and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the three principals in the power-sharing government, were said to have declined to fulfill a directive by their party chiefs to produce a comprehensive report on progress on such issues within 48 hours.
Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma and Regional Integration Minister Priscilla Misihairambwe Mushonga, respectively negotiators for the Movement for Democratic Change formations headed by of Mr. Tsvangirai and Mutambara, confirmed the suspension of the negotiations through the holidays but declined to comment further referring all questions to their principals.
The political party negotiating teams were said to have cited fatigue, having been wrangling over a large agenda of issues since late November.
The three principals for their part are under intense pressure from South African President Jacob Zuma, mediator in Zimbabwe on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, to conclude the discussions before Christmas.
Sources said Zuma wanted a full report on the talks Wednesday. Zuma foreign affairs adviser Lindiwe Zulu told VOA that while South African facilitators can't determine when negotiators can meet, but feel it is important talks be concluded expeditiously for the well-being of the Zimbabwean people.
Negotiators must still come to grips with the most divisive issues on the agenda including the leadership of the Reserve Bank and the Office of the Attorney general, and the swearing-in of promised MDC provincial governors.
The Tsvangirai MDC formation has resolved to refer the matter back to SADC by January 15 if the outstanding issues are not settled by then. The party's spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, said this position has not changed.
London-based political analyst Innocent Chofamba Sithole told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the hardening of positions by the three parties in the power-sharing arrangement makes it hard to achieve compromises.