The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has offered Morgan Tsvangirai a 50-50 power-sharing deal as prime minister with President Robert Mugabe, but the Movement for Democratic Change rejected this, offering the prime minister post to Mugabe instead. A furious Mugabe rejected the counter-offer, sources said last night. But the MDC scored a symbolic victory in the “recognition” by the SADC that parliament may have to be convened even as talks continued – based “on the will of the people” as expressed by the results of the March 29 parliamentary elections, which the MDC won. However, such a move might scupper the dialogue between the three negotiating parties because it means Mugabe would immediately have to appoint a new cabinet. Doing this before the negotiations are completed would entail Tsvangirai being excluded from a new government, contrary to an African Union resolution demanding the formation of an all-inclusive government. The latest bargaining came at an extraordinary “summit organ troika” meeting of the SADC’s organ for politics, defence and security co-operation. This meant that 14 leaders – minus Botswana, but with new member Seychelles – met under the chair of Swazi King Mswati the Third to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis.

According to impeccable sources, the meeting, which included Mugabe, offered the 50-50 deal to try to break the latest impasse in the talks, which President Thabo Mbeki last night said were about 15 months old. The MDC came with a counter-proposal, saying that since ZANU PF was now willing to share power equally, it could just as well accept Mugabe as prime minister. However, Mugabe rejected this and the meeting adjourned. The meeting came after the closing ceremony of the 28th SADC summit in Sandton, where Mbeki took over as the new chair of the SADC. Mswati took over as chair of the organ in the place of Angolan President Jose dos Santos. At a press briefing after the SADC meeting, Mbeki indicated that the negotiations were continuing, but said it was impossible to say when an agreement would be reached. He read from a communique that expressed the organ’s view that parliament might have to be convened. Sources at the meeting said certain leaders were concerned that the legality of dealings in and with Zimbabwe might be affected by the continued failure to convene parliament. In terms of Zimbabwe‘s constitution, the deadline for convening parliament has expired.