President Robert Mugabe has set an ultimatum for Movement for Democratic Change formation leader Morgan Tsvangirai, saying a power-sharing deal must be signed no later than Thursday or he will unilaterally name a new cabinet, state media reported Thursday.
Talks between Mr. Mugabe's long-ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC's two factions, which between them control a majority of seats in parliament, have stalled.
The MDC responded that it would not be pressured into signing a deal that would only entrench Mr. Mugabe as president while short-changing Tsvangirai.
Three-way talks on how ZANU-PF and MDC should share power were supposed to have picked up in Harare on Thursday, but they
were put off to next week after Tsvangirai wrote to South African President Thabo Mbeki, mediator in the talks, saying he would not be available. Mbeki accordingly postponed a trip to Harare, sources said.
MDC sources, meanwhile, say Tsvangirai is bitter Mbeki has not brought anything new to the table. ZANU-PF says it won’t negotiate new terms and only want’s Tsvangirai’s signature.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu refused in an interview with reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe to disclose the government’s intentions.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation warned in an interview with VOA that forming a new cabinet would signal the talks have collapsed.
Speaking for the MDC formation headed by Arthur Mutambara, Edwin Mushoriwa told VOA reporter Zulu that a unilaterally named cabinet would be a disaster.
From VOA's Johannesburg Bureau, Delia Robertson reported that some analysts argue that Tsvangirai has failed to recognize the limits of the power-sharing negotiations, is in danger of overplaying his hand, and should settle for what he can obtain here and now.
In South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions threatened to boycott trade with Zimbabwe for one week if the talks fail to yield a favorable outcome.
COSATU's central executive committee agreed Thursday on the measure to push for an end to the political and economic crisis. Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi said the boycott will support the struggle for democracy by Zimbabwean workers.
COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven noted that the action could hurt Zimbabwe’s economy, but argued that it will boost pressure on the Mugabe government to heed the will of the people and take the power-sharing talks seriously.
Craven said the boycott could be reconsidered if talks yield a settlement – but warned actions will be stepped up unless Harare shifts course.