Mugabe’s ‘reforms’ cast doubt on talks


Dumisani Muleya

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s proclaimed sweeping reforms of state institutions, including cabinet and Zanu PF, have put talks between the ruling party and opposition Movemen

t for Democratic Change (MDC) on ice.


Zanu PF sources say the ruling party unilaterally suspended informal talks with the MDC recently to first complete its leadership regeneration through the ongoing provincial elections ahead of the party’s annual conference in Masvingo next month.


South African President Thabo Mbeki has said Zanu PF is undergoing a “leadership renewal”. He has also said the Zimbabwe crisis would be resolved by June next year and reaffirmed last week that a solution would be found soon to the current crisis.


Mugabe, who recently told a central committee meeting that he would be making changes to state institutions, including his “war cabinet”, is said to be preoccupied with his internal re-organisation exercise which means talks with the MDC are on the back burner.


After promising reforms two weeks ago, Mugabe launched the changes last week by appointing Jewel Bank chief executive Gideon Gono as the new Reserve Bank governor and announcing new provincial governors.


Mugabe is also set to make changes in the armed forces command structure after Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe confirmed he was retiring next month.


Zvinavashe has been linked to the post of vice-president left vacant by the death of Simon Muzenda. Last weekend he said he was ready for any “national” appointment. He ruled out accepting a post in the districts.

Mugabe also last week removed Lieutenant-General Mike Nyambuya from the army and made him Manicaland governor amid speculation that he was trying to purge “problematic” senior army officers.


Nyambuya and senior army colleagues like Major-General Philip Sibanda had reportedly been targeted for redeployment from the military to other areas to defuse tensions within the armed forces ranks.


Air Commodore Elson Moyo was recently elevated to Air Vice Marshal as part of the changes. Airforce commander Perence Shiri has been tipped to replace Zvinavashe as ZDF commander.


It is understood that Mugabe and Zanu PF officials are keen to proceed with the leadership shake-up before they can re-engage the MDC. Going into talks divided would only provide a hostage to fortune to the opposition, they calculate.


The two parties had until July 31 been engaged in talks.


Sources say Zanu PF wants to go to the Masvingo conference with new leaders, at least at provincial level, so that it can claim to have finally grasped the reform nettle. Those vying to succeed Mugabe are also anxious about the outcome of provincial polls as they have a major bearing on the succession race.


The ruling party, sources say, wants to deal with its succession crisis and corrosive internal factionalism ahead of any further talks. Sources say Mugabe’s succession dilemma has profoundly divided the party and become a major stumbling block to a negotiated settlement.


Zanu PF infighting over talks and other policy issues has resulted in the ruling party failing to adopt a common position on a wide range of matters. Sources say this is the primary reason why it has unceremoniously disengaged from dialogue.