No Deal In Sight As Negotiators Adjourn Talks

A STALEMENT in Zimbabwe’s inter-party talks is set to worsen the country’s decade-long crisis and a new government that excludes Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC will be rejected both locally and by the international community, political analysts have said.

 

The analysts said Saturday’s Sadc summit of heads of state and government in Midrand, South Africa, should come up with decisive ways of resolving the country’s political problems to avert a humanitarian crisis.

Talks between President Robert Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara of the smaller faction of the MDC took a break this week amid reports of an impasse between the negotiators.

After agreeing to most of the issues tabled during the talks in Harare since Sunday, Tsvangirai on Tuesday came up with a new position.

He reportedly demanded that Mugabe and Zanu PF should transfer power to him and his party on the basis that he outpolled the 84-year-old veteran leader in the March 29 presidential poll.

Tsvangirai also reportedly declined Zanu PF’s proposal that as prime minister he would control only the finance, local government and home affairs portfolios in the cabinet, while all executive power would be vested in Mugabe.

It is also understood that Mugabe’s eagerness to hold on to executive powers to appoint ministers and chair the cabinet prompted Tsvangirai to make the eleventh hour u-turn.

State media on Wednesday reported that Mutambara and Mugabe had signed a power-sharing deal, although Mbeki and the smaller opposition party denied that.

Quoting unnamed sources, the media said Mugabe would “soon” call parliament into session and appoint a new cabinet that would include members of Mutambara’s faction.

Mbeki and Mutambara have since denied the reports of a deal and also that the talks had collapsed.

“We have dealt with all the elements on which President Mugabe and Mutambara agree, but there is disagreement on one element over which Morgan Tsvangirai had asked for time to reflect,” Mbeki told reporters on Wednesday.

“We have adjourned to give Morgan Tsvangirai more time to consider these matters.”

Tsvangirai was accused of reneging on initial agreements of the talks and insisted that the results of the March 29 presidential election stand.

The opposition leader out-polled Mugabe in the election, but failed to garner the mandatory 50% plus votes to assume the presidency.

Tsvangirai boycotted the subsequent presidential election run-off on June 27 on allegations of state-sponsored violence against his supporters, but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission went ahead with the poll. Mugabe won by over 85% in the one-man race.

Political analysts argued this week that a unity government without Tsvangirai will be a farce and would be rejected by the international community.

The analysts said Tsvangirai’s absence in a new government would keep investors away from the country whose economy is sinking deeper into a morass with each passing day.

It was also not likely to bring an end to Western sanctions targeting Mugabe’s government. Western countries had demanded a big role for Tsvangirai on the grounds that he won the first round of the presidential election.

Political scientist Eldred Masunungure said the Sadc summit should come up with a “decisive and conclusive” recommendation on how to resolve the impasse, arguing that a government without Tsvangirai would be rejected internationally.

The University of Zimbabwe lecturer said regional pressure should be exerted on all parties to the talks to speedily resolve disagreements and form a unity government.

“The current impasse is just a break, rather than a breakdown of talks,” Masunungure said.

“The Sadc summit must make a decisive and conclusive recommendation to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. Intense regional pressure is needed to compel the negotiating parties to reach a power-sharing agreement.”

He said while the talks were an unfinished business, the stalemate complicates the dialogue especially on reports that Mugabe wanted to call parliament into session and appoint a cabinet, which would include Mutambara and members of his faction.

“A government between Zanu PF and Mutambara’s MDC would violate the salient elements of the memorandum of understanding signed recently, which bars the appointment of a new cabinet and the recalling of parliament,” Masunungure said. “Such a government won’t be accepted internationally. It will be a desperate move by Zanu PF to give a semblance of progress, when the progress is hollow.”

He said “real political power” should be shared between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

“Mutambara should be party to the government, but he is not a critical and decisive player,” Masunungure argued.

“It (Mugabe-Mutambara union) will be a government without substance. It will not unlock anything at the international level.”

Another UZ political science lecturer and a loud critic of Mugabe, John Makumbe, said regional pressure must be intensified on the Zanu PF leader to cede executive powers to Tsvangirai because he was “the people’s choice”.

He argued that a deal that excludes Tsvangirai and his party would be null and void.

“Tsvangirai is the main opposition leader, and any agreement that doesn’t include his party will not work for the country,” Makumbe said. “It actually just complicates issues. The Sadc summit should be categoric and tell Mugabe to cede power.”

Some European countries have since said that any government without Tsvangirai would be a farce.

Australian Foreign minister Stephen Smith on Wednesday said: “Any so-called government of national unity, which did not involve Tsvangirai, would effectively be a farce. Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential election. His party, the MDC, won a parliamentary majority.”

He said a Mugabe-Mutambara government “would fly in the face of any semblance of respecting the will of the Zimbabwe people”.

Time will tell whether a deal will be clinched between Mugabe and Tsvangirai or that the talks will collapse.

However, Mbeki is still optimistic.

“I am quite confident they will resolve all their outstanding matters which would result in this inclusive government, and in the second instance then acting together,” Mbeki said before he flew out of Zimbabwe to Angola to brief his counterpart José Eduardo dos Santos on the negotiations. Dos Santos is the chairperson of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

By Constantine Chimakure

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