Page last updated at 05:32 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Zimbabwe rivals 'should both go'

Robert Mugabe (L) and Morgan Tsvangirai, file pic from 15 September 2008
Months of power-sharing talks have not broken the deadlock

Both Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai should step aside to end the deadlock, a respected think tank argues.

This could allow a transitional administration to implement political and economic reforms, the report by the UK's International Crisis Group says.

The international think tank's proposal would also give the president and his generals immunity from prosecution.

A BBC correspondent says it is unlikely either side would take up such an idea.

The ICG's suggested plan - entitled Ending Zimbabwe's Nightmare: A Possible Way Forward - describes ongoing mediations as "hopelessly deadlocked".

It proposes that Zimbabwe's parliament - "the country's only legally elected national institution" - should draft a constitutional amendment to establish an interim administration that would pave the way for new presidential elections in 18 months.

Vortex of despair

Francois Grignon, director of ICG's African programme, said Zimbabwe urgently needed a "credible and competent government" to address the disastrous humanitarian and economic conditions now facing the country", including:

  • The meltdown of vital social services
  • A cholera epidemic that has claimed 1,000 lives
  • The flight of a third of the population
  • A third of remaining citizens facing starvation

"A non-partisan transitional administration directed by a neutral chief administrator could achieve this," said Mr Grignon.

With Zimbabwe descending into a vortex of despair, the ICG's suggestion is for an alternative way forward, says the BBC's Africa analyst Martin Plaut.

But while it may be an elegant solution, passions in Zimbabwe are so inflamed it is hard to see how either side would be prepared to take up such an idea, our correspondent adds.

After disputed presidential elections in March, Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF party and Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change agreed to form a power-sharing government.

But implementation of that agreement, reached in September, has been dogged by disagreements over whose supporters would get key ministries.

Months of negotiations brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of the Southern African Development Community have failed to break the deadlock.

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