JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe's opposition and negotiators for President Robert Mugabe have broken off, officials said Monday. One said the talks stalled over Mugabe's insistence that he remain president.
Two officials said the chief negotiators for Mugabe — Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche — were flying home. They were expected to consult Mugabe about their mandate, one of the officials said.
Another official, in South Africa, said opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had left the country and was driving to Pretoria, the South African capital where the talks were held, to consult with his negotiators.
The officials — all close to the power-sharing talks — insisted on anonymity because all parties agreed to a media blackout during the talks, which began Thursday.
Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change won most votes in the first round of elections in March, but Tsvangirai pulled out of a June runoff following months of escalating state-sponsored violence.
Mugabe ran alone and declared himself winner, but the election was widely discredited internationally as a sham.
The biggest obstacle to any agreement always was who would lead a new government.
Tsvangirai has said that an agreeable settlement must recognize only his victory in the March elections. Mugabe, who has survived years of attempts to oust him even by his own party, insists he should head any government.
The agreement to hold power-sharing talks was reached a week ago with increasing violence and some 2,000 supporters in jail putting pressure on the opposition while intense international disapproval — including some African governments saying they could not recognize Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe — appeared to sway Mugabe's ruling party.
Tsvangirai has been criticized by his own party members for agreeing to the talks without insisting that his followers, including some newly elected legislators, be freed from jail.
Last week's agreement called for an end to all violence. Though beatings and abductions of opposition activists have diminished, the violence still continues, according to doctors and analysts in Zimbabwe.
The agreement also calls for the government to reverse an order barring non-governmental organizations from distributing food. Mugabe accused the organizations of selectively feeding only opposition supporters and has not honored the agreement. Instead, he recently has made cheaper food available to the poor, but residents say it goes only to registered supporters of his ZANU-PF party. The subsidized food also is sold to soldiers whose officers are among Mugabe's strongest loyalists.
One third of Zimbabweans are hungry and dependent on foreign food aid and another third of the population has fled the southern African nation's political and economic disaster.
Zimbabwe used to grow enough to feed itself and export food to the region until Mugabe turned on white commercial farmers, ordering invasions of their farms and saying he would give them to poor black peasants.
Instead, the land went to his ministers and generals and was left to lie fallow, destroying the economy.
Today, there are chronic shortages of everything including medication, fuel, food, electricity and water and Zimbabwe suffers the highest inflation rate in the world. Last week, the central bank issued a $100 billion note that is not enough to buy a loaf of bread.