Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Talks Begin

After relatively quick negotiations about the terms and format of the talks, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe began official talks with MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in South Africa. Terms included that neither party talk to the press, and the time-frame is a surprisingly short two weeks.

One reason for the quick turnaround could be that Mugabe’s regime is anxious to sort things out so it can make a case for the lifting of some sanctions. The London-based Guardian and SW Radio Africa both report that the government is running out of the special paper required to print cash. The banknotes are needed badly to pay salaries to regime backers like the army. Meanwhile, inflation continues at insane rates, SW Radio Africa says: “One English pound this week is trading at Z$1.3 trillion.”

On an optimistic note, reports suggest the actions being discussed could truly begin to ease Mugabe out of power. According to SW Radio Africa:

Discussions are taking place about making Mugabe titular President, with Tsvangirai as Executive Prime Minister. Speculation suggests half the cabinet will be from Zanu PF, the other half from the Tsvangirai MDC while the Mutambara MDC is set to get one cabinet post. The plan is for elections to be held in 2 years, under a new constitution.

If everything works out and Zimbabwe actually starts to recover — admittedly still a long shot — the image of South African president Thabo Mbeki might begin to look a lot better. The SADC-appointed head mediator has taken quite a bit of criticism for refusing to condemn Mugabe or ZANU-PF’s thuggish tactics in the election, and was also taking heat for reportedly lobbying China to veto sanctions from the U.N. Security Council. Was he right after all to maintain a collegial rather than adversarial relationship with Mugabe?