Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 14:38 UK

Zimbabwe's uneasy balancing act

By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst

Robert Mugabe (l) and Morgan Tsvangirai (r) after signing a power-sharing deal in Harare, 15 September 2008
Zimbabwe's deal sparked optimism, but the details beg new questions

Zimbabwe's power-sharing government is being sworn in but the big question remains how the former foes will now work together.

The document which governs the agreement leaves its readers with more questions than answers.

It says that executive authority shall be shared between President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the cabinet.

The only guidance on how this will be done is the instruction that "in exercising this authority the President, Vice Presidents, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers and Deputy Ministers must have regard to the principles and spirit underlying the formation of the Inclusive Government and act in a manner that promotes cohesion inside and outside government."

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How responsibility will be divided between the cabinet and the council of ministers remains to be seen.

There is little to distinguish between them, and little to distinguish their functions.

It seems very much down to what Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai and their respective parties make of what they are allocated.

'Direction of travel'

Two other bodies have been established.

There is a Joint Monitoring and Implementation Mechanism, consisting of the political parties to sort out difficulties.

There is also a National Economic Council, including business and farmers to help rebuild the economy.

Robert Mugabe:
Chairs cabinet
Chairs National Security Council (includes security chiefs)
Zanu-PF has 15 ministers
Morgan Tsvangirai:
Prime minister
Chairs council of ministers
Runs the country day-to-day
Member of National Security Council
MDC has 16 ministers - 3 from smaller faction
Other agreements:
Both men needed to dissolve parliament
End violence, abusive language
Free political activity
Press freedom
Carry out land audit, UK urged to compensate white farmers
Demand end to international sanctions, calls for regime change
State bodies must be non-partisan

While it remains unclear who is ultimately in charge, President Mugabe has retained control of the security forces, as he chairs the National Security Council.

Mr Tsvangirai, who says his supporters were brutalised by the security forces during the election campaign, does however gain a seat on the NSC, which includes Zimbabwe's military chiefs.

Cheryl Hendricks of South Africa's Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS) says much of the detail is to be fleshed out later.

"This is an agreement that will have to be made to work in practice."

But she points to the role of South Africa, the African Union and the regional Southern African Development Community (Sadc), as guarantors.

If this deal fails, it will be up to these organisations to come to the rescue.

Perhaps the best that can be said of this agreement is that it is an indication of the direction of travel, rather than a final destination.

With goodwill it might work, without it, the crisis in Zimbabwe will only continue.

Which is why the European Union and the United States have decided to wait and see, before giving it their blessing.

Infographic showing power-sharing deal

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