For the first time since Zimbabwe's independence from Britain 28 years ago, President Robert Mugabe has loosened his tyrannical grip on the government by agreeing to share substantial power with his bitter political opponent and personal enemy, Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai. The accord, which will divvy up the Cabinet, ministries and security forces, doesn't bring about the regime change Zimbabwe needs, but it's a step in the right direction -- and given Mugabe's intransigence, it is probably the best that can be hoped for.
Under the deal, Mugabe stays president and keeps control of the military. He loses control of the parliament and the Cabinet. His government will oversee 15 ministries, and the opposition will head the remaining 16; still to be determined is which leader will control intelligence, police and other security services. That's a significant question because Mugabe has used the police to bully the populace and cow opponents.
Tsvangirai, who has been beaten, jailed and charged with treason, bested Mugabe in the March general election, winning 48% of the vote to the president's 43%. With a handshake Monday, however, Tsvangirai called for an end to hostilities, saying the welfare of the country takes precedence. That was in heavy contrast to the remarks from Mugabe, who turned to his usual script, brushing off the country's severe economic problems and blasting Britain and the United States for fueling the opposition movement against him. Never mind Zimbabwe's rampant unemployment and inflation or the near-starvation of its people.