Zimbabwe's seven-month-long political crisis has been a test of patience for ordinary Zimbabweans, who voted nearly 2 to 1 in favor of Mr. Tsvangirai against Mugabe in the first round of elections held on March 29, but who now struggle to feed their families. Few regional leaders seem to know how to break the impasse – the neighboring country of Botswana urges deep sanctions against Mugabe, while regional mediator Mr. Mbeki calls for patient negotiation. But a continuation of the crisis puts an unbearable economic burden on the entire region. More than 4 million Zimbabwean refugees have fled to other countries, 3 million of them to South Africa alone.
Until negotiators made a breakthrough on Sept. 15, with a signed power-sharing agreement, the previous seven months had provided little hope that the crisis could be resolved. Tsvangirai insisted that he should have been named president, since the first round of the elections were relatively free of intimidation and manipulation. Mugabe claims he won the second round of the elections, even though he in fact ran unopposed. Tsvangirai pulled out of the second round because of Mugabe's brutal use of police and armed militias to intimidate opposition supporters.
Small wonder, then, that today's main sticking point is the Ministry of Home Affairs, which controls the police. Tsvangirai's supporters say the opposition must oversee the police in order to prevent further abuse by Mugabe. They also insist on control of the Ministry of Finance, since Mugabe's henchmen have generally used that ministry to bankroll their own business deals and to print currency to keep the economy going.