JOHANNESBURG (AFP) — Southern African leaders are pressuring Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to accept a power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe, the South African press reported Monday.
South African President Thabo "Mbeki turns up the heat on Tsvangirai", said The Times in a headline, adding: "Zim opposition given ultimatum: sign deal or let parliament decide."
Leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held a weekend summit in Johannesburg and called for the convening of the parliament after the March 29 poll, in which Mugabe's ZANU-PF party suffered a historic defeat.
"The threat by SADC leaders to take the matter to parliament could therefore be seen as a way of exerting pressure on Tsvangirai to sign," The Times said.
"The move could also boost Mugabe", said the Business Day newspaper which noted that the "parliament had not been sworn in largely because the presidency was being disputed."
Mugabe's ZANU-PF and a smaller faction of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara would have a parliamentary majority if they combined forces. Mutambara last week concluded an informal understanding with the regime.
The Star voiced fears that convening parliament could "scupper the dialogue" between Tsvangirai and Mugabe following the veteran president's controversial re-election in June in a run-off boycotted by the opposition leader.
A South African official close to the power-sharing negotiations has said difficult issues included whether Mugabe would retain the right to hire and fire ministers and how long a transitional government would remain in place.
The opposition MDC wants a clause stating that if one of the parties pulls out of the unity government, elections would be held within 90 days, according to the official.
The Star said convening parliament would mean that "Mugabe would immediately have to appoint a new cabinet. Doing this before negotiations are completed would entail Tsvangirai being excluded from a new government."
The regime and the opposition have since July 21 been engaged in power-sharing negotiations but the talks have been stuck over the issue of who should hold the executive powers.
The political logjam has been exacerbated after the June 27 presidential run-off, in which Mugabe -- in power since Zimbabwe's 1980 independence and widely blamed for leading his country to economic ruin -- was re-elected.
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