Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader threatened Tuesday to boycott a meeting aimed at breaking the deadlock in power-sharing talks, prompting the ruling party to accuse him of delaying tactics.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, missed a meeting in Swaziland on Monday hosted by the Southern African Development Community. He complained that the refusal of President Robert Mugabe’s government to grant him a passport showed a lack of respect.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed the power-sharing deal last month but are deadlocked over how to allocate ministries in a 31-member unity Cabinet. Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party of trying to hold on to too many of the most powerful ministries.
The deadlock is blocking desperately needed foreign aid. South African finance minister Trevor Manuel said Tuesday he had earmarked 300 million rands ($30 million) to help Zimbabwe’s struggling farm sector, but the money would not be released until the country had a recognized multiparty government.
The U.N. estimates that half of Zimbabwe’s population will need emergency food aid by next year. The once-prosperous nation has inflation of 230 million percent and worsening shortages of food, gasoline and most basic goods.
Health authorities said Tuesday that 11 people have died from cholera in a town near Harare, the capital, and at least 500 people had been treated for the disease. Last month 16 people died in another town because of sewage-contaminated water.
Tsvangirai says the economic chaos will only worsen if Mugabe remains his grip on power.
Because of Tsvangirai’s absence from Monday’s meeting, officials rescheduled the meeting to next week and said it would be held in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai is still threatening to boycott, his party said, claiming Mugabe’s party was not interested in sharing power.
Mugabe’s chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said Tsvangirai’s no-show on Monday reflects his “hesitance to finalize and conclude discussions on the formation of a new government.”
“We have wasted too much time haggling over issues which are of little consequence,” Chinamasa was quoted as saying in the state-run Herald newspaper.
In Washington, African National Congress President Jacob Zuma criticized Zimbabwe’s government for hindering talks with the opposition and asked other African countries to step up pressure for a workable solution.
Zuma, who is expected to be elected South African president next year, was meeting with Bush administration officials.