MUGABE swears in own vice presidents

HARARE - Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has sworn in two vice-presidents ahead of talks on forming a cabinet.

HARARE - Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has sworn in two vice-presidents ahead of talks on forming a cabinet.

The move, announced by a government official yesterday, has angered the opposition and could further endanger power-sharing negotiations.

The appointments follow Mugabe's allocation of important ministries to his Zanu-PF at the weekend, angering the opposition. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it doubted mediation by former South African president Thabo Mbeki would be able to get Zanu-PF to compromise.

A senior government official said yesterday: "The two vice-presidents were sworn in this morning because their positions are not in dispute."

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said at the weekend that his party could walk away from the power-sharing deal if Mbeki's latest mediation effort failed to end a deadlock on the allocation of key ministries in the country.

"The visit provides a platform and opportunity for Zanu-PF to reverse its unilateral action," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

"The Zanu-PF mindset is not consistent with power-sharing. It cannot be power-sharing when one party controls all the key ministries," Chamisa said.

Mbeki, who scored his biggest diplomatic coup last month when he nudged the bitter rivals to sign a power-sharing agreement, arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday.

A government notice on Saturday showed Mugabe had allocated three key ministries to his party, drawing fire from the opposition and threatening the fragile pact.

Mugabe handed his party the ministries of defence, home affairs - which is in charge of the police - and finance which will be strategic in reviving the collapsing economy.

But the official Herald newspaper has suggested that the finance post was the only outstanding issue.

Chamisa said there was no agreement on other powerful ministries, including justice, foreign affairs, information and local government.

Zimbabwe's economy has continued to implode, with the number of people in need of food aid rising by the day, adding to the woes of a country suffering staggering inflation of 230million percent.

Tsvangirai said he would continue negotiating to try to reach an agreement, but he added that the country's 10 posts of provincial governors should be shared between Zanu-PF, a splinter MDC group and his party.

The parties have been at loggerheads since the signing of the September 15 pact on the sharing of 31 cabinet posts.

This has angered Zimbabweans who had hoped the deal would bring an end to years of economic misery.

Under the power-sharing deal, Mugabe - who has been in power since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain in 1980 - retains the presidency and also chairs the cabinet.

Tsvangirai, as prime minister, will head a council of ministers supervising the cabinet.

Zanu-PF will have 15 seats in the cabinet, Tsvangirai's MDC will have 13 and the splinter MDC faction, which is led by Arthur Mutambara, will have three posts, giving the opposition a combined majority. - Reuters