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High Hopes In Zimbabwe For Reconciliation, Reconstruction Through Unity Deal

Zimbabweans on Friday started to digest the impact and implications of the historic power-sharing agreement reached late Thursday by the long-time ruling ZANU-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change, now the majority party in parliament.

Some, particularly civil society leaders excluded from the talks, expressed reservations about the viability of the agreement bringing together longtime political adversaries, but most Zimbabweans including the political parties engaging themselves to co-governance, said they hoped the pact would lead to reconciliation and socio-economic revival.

The April-June period following March presidential and general elections was one of the most violent the country has known since the war leading to independence in 1980, as political violence surged and claimed scores of lives, mostly MDC supporters.

Had the talks failed, Zimbabwe faced a political and economic abyss - a prospect which appears to have sufficiently motivated negotiators on both sides of the main division between the long-ruling ZANU-PF and the former opposition MDC.

Soon Zimbabwe will have an executive president, Robert Mugabe, and an executive prime minister, MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai, a new cabinet which Mr. Mugabe will chair plus a council of ministers that will be headed by Mr. Tsvangirai.

Rival MDC formation leader Arthur Mutambara will serve as deputy prime minister.

The council of ministers will include all ministers excluding Mr. Mugabe and his two vice presidents, Joseph Msika and Joyce Mujuru.

Under the agreement the combined MDC is to receive the most ministerial positions – 13 going to the Tsvangirai formation of the former opposition party and three to the Mutambara grouping. Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF gets 15 ministerial portfolios.

More details should emerge as ZANU-PF and the MDC implement the agreement, which will be released on Monday when it is to be formally signed by the principals.

The agreement took nearly eight weeks to be hammered out counting from the signature July 21 of a memorandum of understanding on the framework for discussion.

Over the intervening weeks the talks often seemed to have become deadlocked, and even this week it seemed that a power-sharing deal remained distant with Mr. Mugabe and Tsvangirai haggling over the distribution of executive powers.

But that changed dramatically around 9.p.m. Thursday, as VOA correspondent Thomas Chiripasi, at the Rainbow Towers Hotel venue for the negotiations, reports.

Implementing the power-sharing deal will require immediate constitutional changes with a nineteenth amendment likely to be passed into law, and a new constitution is to be drafted over the next 18 months to be approved by Zimbabweans in a referendum.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the MDC formation of Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the agreement gives Tsvangirai the executive powers he held out for under intense pressure to sign the deal.

ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo said the historic agreement will lead to a turnaround in the country's long-declining fortunes.

Spokesman Edwin Mushoriwa of the Mutambara MDC formation hailed the deal as a new start.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement congratulating the parties to the accord and commending President Mbeki for his “tireless efforts” as mediator.

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad expressed hope that the international community would come forward with reconstruction assistance.

For a broader view of the deal, VOA reporter Peter Clottey turned to Peter Kagwanja, president of the Africa Policy Institute in Pretoria, who said its who said its success depends on good will at home and support by the international community.

From Harare, VOA correspondent Sylvia Manika reported that civic leaders threw cold water on the news of a power-sharing agreement between the political parties and their top leaders, warning that the widely hailed deal could fail to work as it was made without input from ordinary Zimbabweans and civil society organizations.

Correspondent Loirdham Moyo reported from the eastern city Mutare, capital of Manicaland province, that many in the eastern border city expressed hope that the political accord would usher in a new beginning for the country.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...