26 Jan 2009

Summit called to ease Zimbabwe crisis

8:53 pm on 26 January 2009

Southern African heads of state meet on Monday for another attempt to resolve the political deadlock in Zimbabwe, which is suffering a worsening humanitarian crisis.

The summit in Pretoria will try to persuade the two main political parties - led by President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai - to resolve their differences.

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change signed a power sharing agreement last September, but have been unable to agree on forming an inclusive government.

There is skant hope that this regional summit will lead to the formation of a power sharing government, the BBC reports. It is the fourth such meeting since inconclusive elections were held in March last year.

The main issue of contention is over who controls key ministeries and other top public posts. Mr Mugabe has said that he will not compromise any further.

If there is still no agreement on Monday, Mr Mugabe may ask the South African Developement Community (SADC) for the legitimacy to form a new government without the MDC.

SADC, which has called the emergency summit, looks powerless.

Zimbabwe is in a state of economic and social collapse, and nearly 3,000 people have died as a result of a cholera epidemic.