Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mugabe: no more concessions

Things in Zimbabwe's long-running power struggle could finally be coming to a head. President Robert Mugabe said on Sunday he won't offer any more concessions to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, which is funny since the reason the power-sharing talks have basically fallen apart in the first place is because Mugabe hasn't lived up to the concessions he’s already made.

In the power-sharing deal brokered by South Africa, Mugabe would remain as president, Tsvangirai would take the new position of prime minister and their two political parties would split the government's ministries between them. But Mugabe quickly filled all of the important ministries with his loyalists, in violation of the agreement. Tsvangirai balked when Mugabe refused to honor a pledge to give the powerful Home Affairs Ministry to Tsvangirai's MDC party. Home Affairs controls the Zimbabwe national police forces, which for the past few years have largely been used to keep Mugabe in power, so as long as he keeps control of Home Affairs, he keeps control of the country.

The two are meeting on Monday with the presidents of South Africa and Mozambique moderating, but unless South Africa is ready to finally lay some sanctions on the Mugabe regime, don't expect anything to come of the meeting. Mugabe has said that if a deal isn’t struck, he’ll declare the power-sharing talks dead and fill the government with his own people (even though he’s basically done that already), and that step could finally prompt South Africa into taking action against him.

Meanwhile Mugabe's solution to Zimbabwe's economic problems is to keep printing money, in more and more ridiculous denominations. Last week the Central Bank of Zimbabwe introduced a new note - the one hundred trillion dollar bill (yes, you read that correctly). At least this new bill should keep ahead of inflation for a month or so, Zimbabweans complained that the $Z 500 billion bill issued a few weeks ago didn't even cover bus fare in Harare.
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