A fifth round of discussions between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime minister Arthur Mutambara on issues troubling the unity government ended Tuesday with a Tsvangirai spokesman reporting some progress.
But other sources informed on the talks said they were close to collapse with the next step possibly an appeal to regional leaders who guaranteed the power-sharing agreement signed in September 2008 and implemented just 11 weeks. Mr. Tsvangirai sought the discussions to resolve issues not resolved in February and some which have arisen since then.
Such issues include ongoing invasions of white-owned commercial farms by militants of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, his recent unilateral reassignment of ministerial responsibilities, and appointments to top posts including the governorship of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, currently held by Gideon Gono, under fire by domestic and international critics.
Mr. Tsvangirai also wanted to address Mr. Mugabe's refusal to swear in Roy Bennett, named deputy minister of agriculture but arrested Feb. 13 as the rest of the cabinet was sworn in and held for weeks on charges connected with an alleged 2006 plot to kill Mr. Mugabe
Informed sources said Mr. Mugabe, backed by ZANU-PF hardliners, rejected demands by Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change for a change at the top at the central bank and in the office of the attorney general, now run by Mugabe loyalist Johannes Tomana.
The president is also said to have insisted that if superseded, the provincial governors he named late last year should to be paid through their full five-year terms.
Sources said Mr. Mugabe agreed to revisit the question of swearing in Bennett and his move this month to strip powers from Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa of Tsvangirai’s MDC formation (Mutambara heads a smaller MDC grouping).
Despite reports the talks were in trouble, Minister of State Gorden Moyo, attached to the office of the prime minister, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that has been progress aside from the Reserve Bank and attorney general posts.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said Mr. Tsvangirai has now resorted to the "quiet diplomacy" for which he once reproached former South African President Thabo Mbeki, as Mr. Mugabe cannot afford to back down on appointees critical to his political survival.