After six months of political and economic turmoil, and mass violence, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed Thursday to share power.
Twenty-eight years under Mugabe's rule have left Zimbabwe, once known as the "bread basket" of Africa, devastated by food shortages, poverty and astronomical inflation.
When, after the March presidential elections, results suggested that Tsvangirai's MDC party won more votes than 84-year-old Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, the government went on the offensive. The resulting campaign of intimidation and power politics only ended Thursday night, when South African President Thabo Mbeki announced that the pair had agreed to sign a power-sharing deal.
Details have not been announced, but it is thought that Mugabe will remain president while Tsvangirai will become prime minister and that their two parties will be allocated an equal number of seats in Parliament. The deal is to be signed Monday. Here are our Zimbabwean Observers' reactions to the news.
"There was a great deal of reluctance on Mugabe’s part in signing the deal."
Reyhana Masters-Smith is a journalist and human rights campaigner from Harare.We've been waiting for this since Monday when Tsvangirai arrived in Harare, so we were getting a bit anxious that it wouldn't go ahead. Then an SMS went round from South Africa. We are happy about the deal, but it doesn't mean to say we agree with it.
Personally I think that although it's been signed, there's been so much intimidation that no-one dares to be associated with the MDC. Nobody's talked about the fact that while the TV crews pulled out of Zimbabwe months ago, the violence continued. It was very intense; really brutal. And we're not even fully aware of everything that's happened, it's been difficult to access rural areas. How do we heal from all that? How can we move forward? What kind of justice will be given?
So although the deal's been signed, the MDC's lost a lot of ground support, and that will impact the power shift. I hear that Zanu-PF plans to restructure at every level, which could lead to them getting a stronger grip at foundation level. Of course everyone will be scrutinising the relationship between Mugabe and Tsvangirai and their two parties. I understand there was a great deal of reluctance on Mugabe's part in signing the deal. But there was also a great deal of pressure on him - and at some stage he had to give in.
Everyone is happy, but so subdued after such a hard period; I haven't even seen anyone celebrating in the streets."
"This kind of change could be the best we could have had in the circumstances"
Daniel Molokele is a human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe who now lives in Switzerland. He works for the Global Zimbabwe Forum, an international pressure group made up those who have fled or been exiled from the country.I am busy thanking God for the good news from Harare! This is a good window of opportunity for us as a nation, especially for the Zim diaspora community. I know that this is not necessarily the change we originally wanted but we can still use it as a good starting point for all of us as we try to take Zimbabwe forward. I know a lot of people wanted a complete overhaul of the Mugabe-led regime but it was not to be! But the good news is that in spite of its compromised nature, this kind of change could be the best we could have had in the circumstances. But what we need to do is to explore all the democratic space that might arise out of the new political setup.
We are together in all this..."