The three political parties involved in a power sharing agreement in Zimbabwe have agreed to stop commenting on progress in forming an inclusive government to avoid getting distracted, an official said on Thursday.
One of the negotiators, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said that the parties would not comment on the issue except to report a breakthrough or a stalemate, local media New ziana reported on Thursday.
"We are not going to negotiate in public," Chinamasa said, adding that the parties would not be provoked to comment on the negotiations as it was putting them under unnecessary pressure.
"When we think we have something to report on we will issue a statement," he said.
The parties have been haggling over distribution of cabinet portfolios over the past three weeks and have been deadlocked over two remaining Ministries.
In the agreement that South African former President Thabo brokered, the ruling Zanu PF will occupy 16 posts, the Tsvangirai- led MDC formation 13 and the smaller MDC three.
The ruling Zanu PF is also entitled to appoint eight deputy Ministers, the larger MDC six and the smaller one.
Leaders of the three political parties initially referred the process of allocating the cabinet portfolios to their negotiators after finding it to be taxing and cumbersome.
The negotiators had also referred the process back to the principals after failing to reach agreement.
When he returned from the United Nations ordinary summit last Monday, President Mugabe had said a cabinet would be in place by last Friday.
Zimbabweans have pinned their hopes on formation of the inclusive government which they expect to tackle socio-economic challenges the country has been experiencing over the past decade and which have been characterised by galloping inflation, shortages of basic commodities and cash in the banks.
According to the reports from a local daily newspaper The Herald, a joint press conference by the two MDC formations to criticise President Mugabe over Cabinet negotiations flopped on Wednesday after MDC leader Professor Arthur Mutambara pulled out of the arrangement at the last minute, accusing MDC-T of trying to overrun his party.
Insiders said the press conference was cancelled after Mutambara accused MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai of trying to destroy his party by demanding the three Cabinet positions apportioned to his formation during the earlier stage of the inter- party talks.
There was "a strong possibility that no official document would be signed or released reflecting the outcome of the Cabinet negotiations", the newspaper said.
Instead, when an agreement is reached, Mugabe will proceed to announce a Cabinet reflecting the consensus as and when the necessary constitutional amendment facilitating the accommodation of Tsvangirai and Mutambara as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively is ratified by Parliament and signed into law.
The opposition parties had agreed on Monday to issue a joint statement at Tsvangirai's Strathaven house in Harare the following day.
However, insiders said developments on Wednesday forced Mutambara to rethink after Tsvangirai reportedly tried to wrest three ministries reserved for Mutambara's MDC formation in line with the political agreement signed last month.
Interestingly, MDC spokesperson Edwin Mushoriwa dismissed suggestions that the two formations would hold a joint Press conference.
Announcing the cancellation of the Press conference, MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said there were new developments and it was not fair to announce a position when consultations were still on.
Meanwhile, the government has rejected claims by MDC-T that there was a deliberate ploy to deny their leader a passport as a means of coercing him into signing an agreement with Zanu-PF over Cabinet positions.
A senior Government official on Wednesday said there were no more agreements to be signed between the parties after the deal signed on September 15.
"There are no more agreements to be signed between the principals. Actually, it is President Mugabe's hand that is going to sign documents to appoint Tsvangirai as the Prime Minister, whenever that is going to happen," he said.
Private and online media reports last week claimed that the government was refusing to renew Tsvangirai's passport to bar him from travelling in the region and beyond to update leaders on political developments in Zimbabwe.